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FROM-THE-  LIBRARY  OF 
TR1NITYCOLLEGE  TORONTO 


PRESENTED    A.D.19*.8 .„. 

from  the  library  of   the 
BY  late  Rev.  G.H.Shortt 


t 


FATHER    WILLIAM    DOYLE,    S.J. 


Kibil  Obsiat: 

IOANNES   WATERS 

Censor  Theol.  Deputatus. 

Imprimatur : 

EDM.    CAN.    SURMONT 

Vic.   Gen. 

Westmonasterii)  die  4  Oct. ,  1919. 


FATHER 

WILLIAM    DOYLE 

SJ. 


BY 

ALFRED     O'RAHILLY 

Professor  in  the  National  University  of  Ireland 
Registrar  of  University  College,  Cork 


WITH    ILLUSTRATIONS 


FOURTH    IMPRESSION 


LONGMANS,     GREEN     AND     CO, 
39  PATERNOSTER  ROW,  LONDON,  B.C.  4. 

55    FIFTH   AVENUE,    NEW   YORK 
BOMBAY,    CALCUTTA   AND   MADRAS 

1922 

All  rights  reserved 


BX 


MAY  2  2  1948 


PATRIBUS     FRATRIBUSQUE 
PROVINCIAE    HIBERNIAE 

SOCIETATIS    IESU 
HOC     SOCII    MONUMENTUM 


PREFACE    TO   FIRST    EDITION 

AFTER  the  death  of  Father  Doyle,  who  was  not  only 
my  friend  but  the  guide  and  helper  of  several  who 
are  near  and  dear  to  me,  I  undertook,  at  my  sister's 
suggestion,  to  write  a  brief  memoir  of  his  life.  This  task, 
lightly  undertaken  as  a  personal  tribute,  has  now  grown  into 
unforeseen  dimensions.  Neither  I  nor  anywie  else  then  sus 
pected  the  existence  of  a  series  of  spiritual  journals  and 
personal  records  which  Fr.  Doyle  had  written  for  his  own 
exclusive  use  and  guidance.  Had  he  died  after  an  ordinary 
illness  in  his  own  room,  he  would  undoubtedly  have 
completely  destroyed  these  intimate  papers.  It  was  the 
chance,  the  providential  chance,  of  his  death  as  a  martyr  of 
charity  on  a  far-off  Flemish  battlefield  which  rescued  these 
notes  from  the  fate  that  he  had  destined  for  them.  They  were 
found  among  his  few  belongings  in  his  room  in  Rathfarnham 
Castle,  accompanied  by  explicit  instructions  directing  that 
in  the  event  of  his  death  they  should  be  burnt  unopened. 
Fortunately  his  Superior,  Fr.  J.  Brennan,  S.J.,  and  his  brother, 
Fr.  C.  Doyle,  S.J.,  decided  that  this  injunction  would  be 
best  observed  by  formally  violating  a  request  which  had 
been  inspired  by  motives  that  had  ceased  to  count.  These 
papers  were  accordingly  handed  over  to  me  ;  and  it  is  from 
these  intimate  self-revelations,  which  were  never  intended 
for  any  eye  save  the  writer's  own,  that  the  greater,  or  at 
least  the  more  valuable,  portion  of  the  present  book  has  been 
compiled.  Had  I  anticipated  that  this  mass  of  material 
existed,  I  would  have  left  this  biography  to  more  competent 
hands,  especially  as  I  could  devote  to  it  only  some  of  the 
scanty  leisure  of  a  busy  life. 

But  having  once  undertaken  it,  I  felt  that  I  could  not 
act  as  a  mere  transcriber  or  editor.  Without  in  any  way 
obtruding  my  own  views,  which  in  such  matters  are  of  no 


Vlll. 


PREFACE 


account,  I  have  attempted  to  give  a  study  as  well  as  a  record. 
I  have  sought  not  only  to  chronicle  the  thoughts  and 
experiences  of  Father  Doyle,  but  also  in  some  measure  to 
give  them  their  true  perspective  by  inserting  them  in  the 
rich  and  inclusive  tradition  of  Catholic  spirituality.  With 
this  object  in*  view  I  have  drawn,  more  extensively  than  is 
usual  in  a  mere  biography,  on  other  spiritual  writers, 
especially  on  those  who  were  Fr.  Doyle's  favourite  authors. 
I  have  tried,  in  particular,  to  lay  stress  on  the  spiritual 
ideals  of  S.  Ignatius,  as  revealed  in  his  Letters  and  in  the 
Spiritual  Exercises,  and  to  distinguish  carefully  between 
these  general  ideals  and  their  individual  adaptations  or 
special  developments.  On  this  point  I  may  have  been 
excessively  careful  and  irritatingly  insistent.  But  my 
intention,  however  defective  its  execution,  has  been  to  make 
this  book  not  merely  a  sketch  of  the  life  of  Fr.  Doyle,  but 
also,  as  I  am  convinced  he  himself  would  have  wished,  the 
prolongation  of  his  life-work. 

The  latter  portion  of  this  memoir  recounts  Fr.  Doyle's 
experiences  as  Military  Chaplain.  It  has  been  compiled 
almost  entirely  from  the  letters  or  budgets  which  he  used 
to  send  home  to  be  perused  by  his  relatives  and  intimate 
friends,  without  the  slightest  ulterior  thought  of  publication. 
In  including  these  interesting  letters  from  the  Front,  it  has 
not  been  my  intention,  any  more  than  it  was  the  writer's, 
to  make  another  addition  to  '  war  literature.'  This  book 
-claims  to  be  simply  the  record  of  an  apostolic  life  and  the 
study  of  a  very  remarkable  spiritual  personality.  His 
•experiences  at  the  Front  are  of  biographical  and  spiritual 
interest  and  help  to  correct  what  might  otherwise  be  a  partial 
or  misleading  impression. 

In  obedience  to  the  decree  of  Pope  Urban  VIII.  I  protest 
that  all  that  is  written  in  this  life  of  Fr.  Doyle  has  no  other 
force  or  credit  than  such  as  is  grounded  on  human  authority. 
Hence  no  expression  or  statement  is  intended  to  assume 
the  approbation  or  anticipate  the  decision  of  the  Church. 

Were  it  not  for  the  continual  assistance  and  encouragement 
of  Father  Charles  Doyle,  S.J.,  this  memoir  would  never 


PREFACE  ix. 

have  been  undertaken  or  written.  Father  F.  Browne,  S.J., 
readily  supplied  me  with  information  on  many  points  con 
nected  with  the  last  two  chapters.  I  have  to  thank  my 
sister,  Sister  M.  Anthony,  for  much  help  in  transcription. 
The  map  was  kindly  drawn  for  me  by  Mr.  D.  R.  Kennedy, 
B.E.  I  am  much  obliged  to  the  printers,  Messrs.  Purcell 
and  Co.,  Cork,  for  their  interest,  attention  and  efficiency. 

Cork,  F&bruary,  ig2o. 


PREFACE    TO    SECOND    EDITION 

ONLY  a  few  minor  changes  have  been  made  in  this 
edition.     I  have  added  in  an  Appendix  some  further 
letters  of  Fr.  Doyle  which  have  subsequently  come 
to   light.      In   an    Afterword  I  have  attempted,   by  some 
general  considerations  on  Catholic  hagiography,  to  reply  to 
the  very  few  unfavourable  criticisms  which  have  reached 
me.      The  publication  of  Fr.  Doyle's  Life  has  been  amply 
justified  by  the  unexpectedly  rapid  sale  of  the  first  edition. 

Cork,  July,  1920. 


PREFACE    TO   NEW    IMPRESSION. 

T I  THE  second  edition  was  sold  out  immediately  on 
-l_  publication.  I  set  about  preparing  a  final  and 
complete  edition,  but  circumstances  over  which  I  had 
no  control  interfered  with  my  work.  I  am  therefore  com 
pelled  to  re-issue  the  second  edition  in  order  to  satisfy  the 
insistent  demand.  I  have  added  a  photograph  of  Fr.  Doyle 
at  the  age  of  fifteen  ;  and  in  the  light  of  further  information 
I  have  modified  the  note  on  page  328. 

Military  Prison  in  Field, 

Bere  Island,  June,   1921. 


CONTENTS 

• 

Chapter 

I.     Childhood  and  Youth  (1873—1891) 


Page 


II.     From  Noviceship  to  Priesthood  (1891 — 1907)     10 — 29 


I.     Tullabeg  (1891—  1893) 

10 

2.     Clongowes  (1894  —  1898) 

12 

3.     Philosophy  (1898  —  1901) 

18 

4.     Clongowes  and  Belvedere  (1901  —  1904) 

21 

5.     Theology  (1904—1907) 

23 

6.     Some  Notes  written  during  Theology 

26 

III. 

Tertianship  (1907  —  1908) 

30—39 

IV. 

Diary  of  Long  Retreat  (1907) 

40—63 

V. 

Apostolate 

.  . 

64—86 

I  .     Missions  and  Retreats 

..          64 

2.     Retreats  for  the  Workers 

..          7I 

3.     The  Holy  Childhood     

••       79 

4.     Vocations 

..       80 

VI. 

Inner  Life 

.  . 

87  —  121 

i  .     Introduction 

..       87 

2.     Interior  Union   .  . 

92 

3.     Personal  'Attachment  to  Christ 

99 

A      Praver 

107 

VII. 

Mortification  and  Suffering 

•  •       3 

:22  —  169 

I  .     Self  -Conquest 

122 

2.     Life  of  Immolation 

••       133 

3.     Priestly  Sanctity  and  Reparation 

••       154 

4.     Holy  Follies 

..     161 

VIII. 

Spiritual  Direction 

] 

70—213 

I  .     His  own  Soul 

170 

2.     Director  of  Others 

i?3 

3.     Discouragement 

178 

4.     Union  and  Abandonment 

187 

5.     The  Cross            ... 

195 

6.     Little  Things      ... 

201 

7.     Praver 

2O6 

8.     Mortification 

.  .       211 

Xll. 


CONTENTS 


Chapter 

IX. 

Mil 
i. 

2. 

3- 
4- 
5- 
6. 

7- 
8. 

itary  Chaplain  1916 
The  Great  Adventure  .  . 

• 

• 

Page 
.  .       214—274 

215 

220 
221 
226 

Cure  of  Mazingarbe 

• 

23T 

242 

251 
200 

Another  Spell  at  the  Front     . 
The  Somme 
Christmas  at  the  Front 

X.     Military  Chaplain  1917 


275—335 


I. 

3. 

3- 

4- 

5- 

0. 

•t. 

Easter  in  the  Pas  de  Calais     . 
May  Devotions 
The  Padre  in  the  Trenches 
Wytschaete  Ridge 
His  Last  Sermon 
The  Battle  of  Ypres      .  . 
The  End  .  . 

.      • 

275 
279 
283 
291 
302 

307 
.     326 

Appendix  (Further  Letters) 
Afterword  (An  Apology  for  Saints) 
Index 


336—357 
358—374 


375 


LIST    OF    ILLUSTRATIONS 


Portrait  of  Father  Doyle 
Schoolboy,  Novice,  and  Scholastic 
Father  Doyle  at  the  Age  of  Fifteen 
Father  Doyle,  Aberdeen,  1908 
Map  of  the  Front 
Military  Chaplain 


Frontispiece 
.To  face  page     2O 

„        „       86 
„     170 

Page  223 
To  face  page  260 


FATHER  WILLIAM  DOYLE,  S.J. 


CHAPTER   I. 
CHILDHOOD  AND  YOUTH   (1873—1891) 

IT  is  chiefly  in  the  light  of  a  man's  subsequent  development 
that  the  incidents  of  childhood  become  interesting  and 
significant,  for  the  child  is  father  of  the  man.  It  is  often 
in  the  artless  sayings  and  doings  of  the  child,  and  in  the 
impulsive  spontaneity  of  the  youth,  that  we  can  best  discern 
that  groundwork  of  natural  character  which  in  the  man 
is  generally  concealed  by  conventionality  or  self-control. 
Unfortunately  in  the  case  of  the  present  biography  the 
records  are  scanty,  but  by  collecting  some  scattered  anecdotes 
and  reminiscences,  it  has  been  possible  to  trace  in  the  boy 
hood  of  the  future  Jesuit  and  Apostle  some  of  those  human 
and  lovable  characteristics  which  remained  to  the  end. 

William  Joseph  Gabriel  Doyle  was  born  at  Melrose, 
Dalkey,  Co.  Dublin,  on  3rd  March,  1873.  His  father  is 
Mr.  Hugh  Doyle,  an  official  of  the  High  Court  of  Justice 
in  Ireland,  who  is  still  alive  and  active  though  in  his  eighty- 
eighth  year ;  his  mother  was  Christina  Mary  Doyle,  nde 
Byrne.1  Willie  was  the  youngest  of  seven  children,  four 
boys  and  three  girls.  The  eldest  and  youngest  of  the  girls 
married  ;  the  second  became  a  Sister  of  Mercy.  The  eldest 
boy  after  a  short  stay  in  the  Jesuit  Novitiate  entered  Holy 
Cross  College,  Clonliffe,  whence  he  passed  to  the  College  of 
the  Propaganda,  Rome.  Ten  days  before  his  ordination  he 
caught  fever  and  died  in  1887  in  the  twenty-eighth  year  of 

i. — She  died  at  7  a.m.  on  igth  March,  1915,  at  the  age  of  83.  Willie  had 
jus't  returned  from  a  Mission  in  Glasgow  and  so  was  able  to  be  with  her  at  the 
end  and  to  say  Mass  immediately  for  her.  Next  year,  in  a  letter  from  the  Front 
(i7th  March,  1916)  he  writes  to  his  Father  :  "I  shall  not  forget  the  anniversary 
on  Sunday,  though  I  doubt  if  she  needs  our  prayers." 


2         FATHER  WILLIAM  DOYLE,  S.J. 

his  age.  The  second  son  entered  the  legal  profession  and 
is  the  present  Recorder  of  Galway.  Willie's  third  brother, 
a  few  years  older  than  himself,  and  the  inseparable  companion 
of  his  boyhood,  became  a  Jesuit. 

Willie  was  a  frail  and  delicate  child,  though  like  most 
highly  strung  children,  he  had  great  reserves  of  energy.  All 
through  life,  indeed,  ill-health  was  one  of  his  great  trials, 
and  for  some  years  before  his  death  he  suffered  acutely  from 
an  internal  complaint.  But,  curiously  enough,  his  nearest 
approach  to  death  was  due,  not  to  sickness,  but  to  an 
accident.  When  he  was  quite  a  little  fellow,  his  nurse 
one  night  placed  a  lighted  candle  on  his  little  cot,  probably 
to  enable  herself  to  read  or  sew.  The  nurse  fell  asleep,  and 
the  candle  overturned  and  set  the  bed  clothes  on  fire. 
Fortunately  his  father,  who  was  sleeping  in  the  next  room, 
was  awakened  by  the  smoke  and  rushed  into  the  nursery. 
He  found  the  cot  on  fire,  and  little  Willie  fast  asleep  with 
his  legs  curled  up,  as  though  he  felt  the  fire  creeping  towards 
him.  In  an  instant  the  child  was  lifted  out  of  bed,  and  the 
mattress  and  bed  clothes  thrown  out  through  the  window. 
As  a  military  chaplain  Father  Willie  once  laughingly  alluded 
to  this  escape  as  his  first  experience  under  fire. 

For  all  his  future  holiness,  Willie  was  by  no  means  a  stilted 
or  unnatural  child.  He  played  games  and  he  played  pranks  ; 
and  though  he  cannot  be  said  to  have  been  naughty,  he 
was  also  far  from  being  irritatingly  or  obtrusively  pious.  It 
is  consoling  to  find  that,  like  most  of  us,  he  played  at  being 
a  soldier.  He  was  seven  years  old  when  it  was  decided 
that  he  should  emerge  from  the  stage  of  velvet  suit  and 
long  curls.  On  his  return  from  the  fateful  visit  to  the 
hairdresser's,  his  mother  seemed  sad  on  seeing  Willie  with 
his  shorn  locks.  But  the  little  fellow  himself  was  delighted, 
and  sturdily  insisted  that  soldiers  did  not  wear  curls,  at 
least  not  nowadays.  His  mother  had  to  make  a  soldier's 
suit  for  him,  with  red  stripes  down  the  sides ;  and  when 
he  won  a  great  battle,  a  couple  of  stripes  had  to  be  added 
to  one  sleeve  !  This  is  how  his  old  nurse  describes  his 
youthful  exploits : 

"  His  love  to  be  a  soldier  even  from  his  babyhood  was 
wonderful— to  fight  for  Ireland.  He  would  arrange  his 


CHILDHOOD   AND   YOUTH  3 

soldiers  and  have  them  all  ready  for  battle.  The  nursery 
was  turned  upside  down,  to  have  plenty  of  room  for  fighting, 
building  castles,  putting  up  tents,  all  for  his  soldiers.  Poor 
nurse  looked  on,  but  was  too  fond  of  him  to  say  anything. 
He  and  a  brother  with  some  other  little  boys  were  having 
a  great  battle  one  day.  He  was  fighting  for  Ireland ;  his 
brother  was  fighting  for  England,  as  he  said  his  grandmother 
was  English.  There  was  a  flag  put  up  to  see  who  was  able 
to  get  it ;  the  battle  went  on  for  some  time,  then  in  a  moment, 
Master  Willie  dashed  in  and  had  the  flag  in  his  hand,  though 
they  were  all  guarding  it.  They  could  not  tell  how  he  got 
it ;  he  was  the  youngest  and  smallest  of  the  lot." 

How  curiously  and  prophetically  appropriate  is  this 
characteristic  of  him,  who  was  to  be  enrolled  in  the  Company 
of  Jesus  and  to  die  on  the  battlefield  as  a  soldier  of  Christ ! 

There  are  many  indications  that  Willie's  youthful  militarism 
was  prompted  by  something  deeper  than  a  primitive  instinct 
of  pugnacity.  Just  as  in  after  years  he  loved  to  aim  at  the 
Ignatian  ideal  of  "  distinguishing  oneself  in  the  service  of 
one's  Eternal  King,"  so,  even  as  a  youngster,  he  felt  the 
call  to  be  foremost  in  energy  and  service.  Long  before  he 
read  of  the  saint  of  Manresa,  he  had  a  natural  affinity  with 
the  soldier  of  Pamplona.  And  it  was  not  always  the  mimic 
battle  of  the  nursery ;  even  at  this  early  age  he  started  real 
warfare,  he  began  a  life-long  struggle  against  himself.  At 
the  beginning  of  Lent,  when  he  was  quite  a  little  boy,  an 
old  Aunt,  chancing  to  go  into  his  Mother's  bedroom,  found 
him  gesticulating  and  talking  in  front  of  the  mirror.  "  You 
villain,  you  wretch,"  he  kept  saying  to  his  reflection,  "  I'll 
starve  you,  I'll  murder  you  !  Not  a  sweet  will  you  get, 
not  a  bit  of  cake  will  you  get  !  " 

This  is  one  of  the  few  glimpses  we  obtain  of  Willie's  interior 
life  during  his  boyhood.  Even  of  his  maturer  soul-struggles 
we  should  know  little  or  nothing  were  it  not  for  the  chance 
preservation  of  his  notes  and  diaries.  There  is  a  danger 
lest  these  revelations  of  penance  and  mortification  should 
mislead  a  reader,  who  was  not  personally  acquainted  with 
Fr.  Doyle,  into  fancying  that  he  was  exteriorly  repellent 
or  gloomily  ascetic.  Throughout  his  life  he  retained  a  fund 
of  humour  and  kindliness ;  no  one  would  suspect  his  slow 


4  FATHER  WILLIAM   DOYLE,   SJ. 

struggle  for  self-mastery  and  perfection.  That  even  in 
boyhood  he  sought  self-conquest  and  recollection,  and 
experienced  the  working  of  God's  grace,  we  can  have  no 
doubt.  There  is  no  record,  however,  save  in  the  archives 
of  Him  who  seeth  in  secret,  where  even  the  sparrow's  fall  is 
registered  and  the  hairs  of  our  heads  are  numbered.  But 
neither  in  youth  nor  in  after  life  was  his  virtue  fugitive  and 
cloistered ;  his  light  so  shone  before  men  that  they  saw  his 
good  works,  his  thoughtful  kindness  and  self-sacrificing 
charity. 

No  man,  it  is  said,  is  a  hero  to  his  valet ;  at  any  rate, 
domestic  servants  are  apt  to  be  severe  critics.  Willie, 
however,  was  deservedly  a  favourite.  He  always  tried  to 
shield  the  maids  when  anything  went  astray  or  was  neglected. 
He  was  ever  on  the  look  out  for  an  opportunity  of  some 
act  of  thoughtfulness.  Thus  sometimes  after  a  big  dinner 
at  Melrose,  the  cook  would  come  down  next  morning  and 
find  the  fire  lighting  and  the  dinner  things  washed.  Willie 
had  been  playing  the  fairy  !  Again,  whenever  a  maid  was 
looking  ill,  he  used  to  volunteer  privately  to  do  her  work. 
A  servant  of  the  family,  who  gave  many  years  of  faithful 
service,  still  remembers  her  first  arrival  at  Dalkey.  As  she 
was  timorously  proceeding  to  Melrose,  she  met  the  two 
brothers  walking  on  stilts  along  the  road.  "  How  are  you, 
Anne  ?  "  said  Willie,  divining  that  this  was  the  new  maid. 
He  alighted  and  insisted  on  taking  whatever  she  was 
carrying.  Before  she  had  her  things  off,  he  had  tea  ready 
for  her. 

"  I  know  I  was  really  awkward  after  leaving  the  rough 
country,"  writes  Anne.  "  I  had  got  orders  to  have  the 
boots  cleaned  that  evening.  But  the  good  saint  took  them 
out  to  the  coach-house  and  brought  them  in  shining.  No 
one  knew  only  Kate  (the  parlourmaid)  he  did  it  so  quietly. 
To  put  it  off  he  made  the  remark,  '  I  dare  say  you  have  no 
such  thing  in  the  country  as  blacking.'  Not  understanding 
the  coal  fire,  and  while  I  was  learning,  he  would  run  down 
stairs  and  have  the  fire  lighting  and  the  kettle  on  by  the  time 
I  would  arrive.  Then  when  breakfast  was  ready,  he  would 
come  to  the  kitchen  and  ask  how  did  I  get  on  with  the  fire 
that  morning  ?  " 


CHILDHOOD  AND   YOUTH  5 

For  the  poor  people  on  Dalkey  Hill  Willie  constituted 
himself  into  a  Conference  of  St.  Vincent  de  Paul.  He  raised 
funds  by  saving  up  his  pocket-money,  by  numberless  acts 
of  economy  and  self-denial ;  he  begged  for  his  poor,  he  got 
the  cook  to  make  soup,  he  pleaded  for  delicacies  to  carry 
to  the  sick.  Once  he  went  to  the  family  apothecary  and 
ordered  several  large  bottles  of  cod-liver  oil  for  a  poor  con 
sumptive  woman,  and  then  presented  the  bill  to  his  father  ! 
He  bought  a  store  of  tea  with  which  under  many  pledges 
of  secrecy  he  entrusted  the  parlourmaid.  On  this  he  used 
to  draw  when  in  the  course  of  his  wanderings  he  happened 
to  come  across  some  poor  creature  without  the  means  of 
providing  herself  with  the  cup  that  cheers.  He  by  no  means 
confined  himself  merely  to  the  bringing  of  relief.  He  worked 
for  his  poor,  he  served  them,  he  sat  down  and  talked  familiarly 
with  them,  he  read  books  for  the  sick,  he  helped  to  tidy 
the  house,  he  provided  snuff  and  tobacco  for  the  aged.  One 
of  Willie's  cases — if  such  an  impersonal  word  may  be  used — 
was  a  desolate  old  woman  whose  children  were  far  away. 
One  day  noticing  that  the  house  was  dirty  and  neglected, 
he  went  off  and  purchased  some  lime  and  a  brush,  and  then 
returned  and  whitewashed  the  whole  house  from  top  to 
bottom.  He  then  went  down  on  his  knees  and  scrubbed 
the  floors,  amid  the  poor  woman's  ejaculations  of  protest 
and  gratitude.  No  one  knew  of  this  but  the  cook  and 
parlourmaid  who  lent  him  their  aprons  to  save  his  clothes 
and  kept  dinner  hot  for  him  until  he  returned  late  in  the 
evening.  While  thus  aiding  his  poor  friends  temporally,  he 
did  not  forget  their  souls.  He  contrived  skilfully  to  remind 
them  of  their  prayers  and  the  sacraments  ;  he  also  strongly 
advocated  temperance.  There  was  one  old  fellow  on  the 
Hill  whom  Willie  had  often  unsuccessfully  tried  to  reform. 
After  years  of  hard  drinking  he  lay  dying,  and  could  not 
be  induced  to  see  a  priest.  For  eight  hours  Willie  stayed 
praying  by  the  bedside  of  the  half-conscious  dying  sinner. 
Shortly  before  the  end  he  came  to  himself,  asked  for  the 
priest  and  made  his  peace  with  God.  Only  when  he  had 
breathed  his  last,  did  Willie  return  to  Melrose.  His  first 
missionary  victory  ! 

When  we  hear  of  these  acts  of  charity  and  zeal  exercised 


6       FATHER  WILLIAM  DOYLE,  SJ. 

at  an  age  which  is  often  associated  with  selfish  thought 
lessness,  we  may  be  inclined  to  imagine  that  Willie  Doyle 
was  a  prim,  stilted,  '  goody-goody '  sort  of  boy.  Nothing 
of  the  kind.  He  had  a  wonderful  freshness  and  spontaneity. 
One  never  could  feel  that  his  kindness  was  artificially 
produced  or  that  his  goodness  was  forced.  His  virtue,  like 
his  laugh,  had  the  genuine  ring  in  it.  One  of  his  most 
endearing  characteristics  throughout  life  was  his  sense  of 
humour.  "  Don't  take  yourself  too  seriously,"  he  once  said 
to  a  rather  lugubrious  would-be-saint ;  "a  sense  of  humour 
is  one  of  the  greatest  aids  to  sanctity."  As  a  boy  he  was 
full  of  humour,  even  when  he  was  doing  good.  He  once 
brought  to  one  of  his  poor  people  a  carefully  wrapped  parcel 
which  was  joyfully  acclaimed  as  a  pound  of  butter  ;  but 
when  extricated  it  proved  to  be  a  stone  !  Next  day,  how 
ever,  the  real  article,  with  much  more  besides,  was  brought 
to  console  the  good  woman.  Sometimes  Willie  was  able  to 
combine  kindness  and  fun.  Thus,  in  order  to  shield  the 
maids,  he  used  to  rake  and  settle  the  cinders  on  top  of  the 
ashes,  and  he  would  then  wait  for  his  grandmother — who 
had  a  little  weakness  for  insisting  that  the  cinders  were 
sifted — and  always  enjoyed  her  remark,  "Oh,  how  nicely 
cook  has  the  cinders  riddled  !  "  With  his  brother  Charlie 
he  loved  to  engage  in  fun  and  frolic.  As  schoolboys  they 
used  to  amuse  themselves  by  dressing  up  as  "  nigger 
minstrels,"  blackening  their  faces  and  hands.  For  this 
purpose  Willie  saved  up  and  bought  a  banjo.  All  the 
household,  including  the  maids,  used  to  be  assembled  for 
these  entertainments.  Some  of  us  who  feel  alas  !  that  we 
have  too  little  in  common  with  Fr.  William  Doyle,  can  thus 
at  least  claim  human  kinship  with  Willie  Doyle  ! 

Between  Willie  and  his  brother,  Charlie,  there  was  a  close 
bond  of  attachment  from  early  days  of  childhood.  As  they 
were  only  a  few  years  apart  in  age,  they  were  naturally  more 
closely  united  with  one  another  than  with  their  elder  brothers 
and  sisters.  Together  they  learnt  their  first  letters,  together 
they  fished  and  bathed,  and  built  themselves  a  wonderful 
house  in  the  branches  of  a  mighty  elm,  together  they  knelt 
and  prayed.  Their  prayers  and  catechism  and  all  things 
religious  were  lovingly  superintended  by  the  future  nun  of 


CHILDHOOD  AND  YOUTH  7 

the  family,  whom  her  young  brothers,,  with  boys'  quick 
instinct  for  hitting  off  a  character  with  a  name,  dubbed 
"'  the  missionary,"  thereby  also  recording  a  tribute  to  their 
sister's  religious  influence.  Willie's  devotion  to  his  elder 
brother  was  remarkable  even  in  a  household  where  all  the 
members  of  the  family  were  so  united  and  affectionate. 
Nothing  was  too  good  for  Charlie,  everything  was  shared 
with  him — sweets,  secrets,  sorrows.  Wherever  he  went, 
Willie  followed,  ready  to  run,  to  fetch  and  carry  at  a  word 
from  his  brother  ;  and  when  bed-time  came  the  last  good 
night,  conveyed  in  a  mysterious  formula,  was  always  to 
Charlie.  And  these  two  who  as  boys  played  and  studied 
together,  fought  their  mimic  battles  together,  and  shared 
their  little  joys  and  sorrows,  were  destined  not  to  be  divided 
in  life.  For  in  ways  mysterious  they  both  joined  the  Society 
of  Jesus. 

In  September,  1884,  at  the  age  of  eleven,  Willie  went  to 
Ratcliffe  College,  Leicestershire,  conducted  by  the  Fathers 
of  the  Institute  of  Charity,  where  his  elder  brother  had 
already  spent  a  year.  Here  in  the  cloisters  and  classrooms 
of  Pugin's  beautiful  college  six  pleasant  and  profitable  years 
were  passed.  A  good  place  was  consistently  secured  at  the 
various  examinations,  and  every  year  saw  one  or  more  prizes 
brought  back  to  delight  the  dear  ones  at  home.  Willie 
excelled  at  sports  ;  he  was  for  several  years  a  member  of 
the  cricket  eleven  and  of  the  football  team.  This  proficiency 
at  games  stood  him  in  good  stead  years  afterwards  when 
he  became  one  of  the  Prefects  at  Clongowes.  He  was  a 
general  favourite  among  his  school-fellows,  and  his  brother- 
in-law,  at  whose  house  in  Sheffield  he  usually  spent  the 
Christmas  vacation,  declared  in  a  letter  that  Willie  was  "  the 
nicest  schoolboy  he  had  ever  met."  Each  summer  found 
the  two  brothers  home  in  Ireland.  Vacation  time  passed 
in  boyish  games  and  amusements  ;  yet,  as  the  years  went 
on,  the  more  serious  side  began  to  show  itself  in  Willie's 
character.  It  was  then  that  he  developed  more  and  more 
his  love  for  the  poor  and  helpless.  At  times  he  would  slip 
away  from  the  cricket  and  tennis  and  seek  out  his  poor  on 
Dalkey  Hill,  where  "  Master  Willie  "  was  a  welcome  visitor. 
There  was  one  family  of  his  own  name,  with  many 


8        FATHER  WILLIAM  DOYLE,  SJ. 

ramifications  on  the  Hill,  which  was  the  object  of  his  special 
predilection.  By  a  curious  coincidence  one  of  the  first  men 
he  met  on  joining  his  regiment  after  his  appointment  as 
military  chaplain  was  a  William  Doyle,  a  grandson  of  his 
old  friend  on  Dalkey  Hill. 

In  the  summer  of  1890  Willie  left  Ratcliffe.  During  his 
last  year  at  college  his  health  had  given  cause  for  anxiety. 
It  was  therefore  decided  that  he  should  remain  quietly  at 
home,  in  order  to  build  up  his  strength  and  reflect  on  his 
future.  What  this  future  would  be,  those  who  knew  him 
never  doubted.  It  had  long  been  an  open  secret  in  the 
family  that  Willie  would  be  a  priest.  He  himself  had  never 
any  doubt  or  hesitation.  Beneath  all  his  boyish  fun  and 
lightheartedness  there  lay,  discernible  to  a  careful  observer, 
a  life  of  deep  purposive  faith.  This  was  shown  not  only 
in  his  pure  upright  character,  his  generous  unselfishness,  and 
his  love  of  Christ's  poor,  but  also  in  his  childlike  piety.  Long 
before  the  decree  of  Pope  Pius  X.  which  restored  frequent 
and  daily  Communion,  Willie  was  a  weekly  communicant. 
His  devotion  to  our  Blessed  Lady  was  also  noticeable  ;  he 
always  went  to  her  altar  when  he  paid  a  visit  to  the  church. 
The  priesthood  seemed  but  the  logical  development  of  a 
life  thus  begun. 

In  July,  1890,  Willie  paid  a  few  days'  visit  to  St.  Stanislaus' 
College,  Tullamore,  the  Novitiate  of  the  Irish  Province  of 
the  Society  of  Jesus,  where  his  brother,  Charlie,  had  entered 
ten  months  previously.  One  day  during  the  visit  the  subject 
of  Willie's  vocation  came  up  for  discussion.  Charlie  knew 
that  Willie  was  going  to  be  a  priest.  But  was  it  a  secular 
priest  or  a  religious  ?  "I  hope  soon  to  enter  Clonliffe,"  said 
Willie.  "  Did  you  ever  think  of  the  religious  life  ?  "  asked 
his  brother.  "  Never  !  "  was  the  emphatic  reply.  "  I  have 
always  wanted  to  fill  the  gap  left  by  Fred's  death,  and  to 
become  a  secular  priest."  "  But  do  you  know  anything 
about  the  religious  state  ?  "  persisted  the  zealous  novice. 
"  No,  nothing,"  said  Willie  ;  "  but  in  any  case  I  would  never 
come  to  this  hole  of  a  place  !  "  This  led  to  an  animated 
discussion  concerning  religious  Orders  in  general  and  the 
Society  of  Jesus  in  particular.  Willie  was  so  far  shaken  as 
to  accept  a  copy  of  St.  Alphonsus  Liguori's  work  on  the 


CHILDHOOD   AND   YOUTH  9 

Religious  State,1  with  a  promise  to  read  it  and  to  think 
over  it.  The  sequel  can  be  told  in  Willie's  own  words  : 

"  On  Christmas  Day  I  was  alone  in  the  drawing-room 
when  Father  came  in  and  asked  me  if  I  had  yet  made  up  my 
mind  as  to  my  future  career.  I  answered  '  Yes  ' — that  I 
intended  to  become  a  Jesuit.  I  remember  how  I  played 
my  joy  and  happiness  into  the  piano  after  thus  giving  myself 
openly  to  Jesus." 

On  3ist  March,  1891,  Willie  entered  the  Jesuit  Novitiate 
of  Tullabeg,  near  Tullamore,  King's  Co. 


i. — Instructions  and  Considerations  on  the  Religious  State.     Eng.   trans,  (no 
date)  published  by  the  Art  and  Book  Co.     See  p.  81. 


io  FATHER   WILLIAM   DOYLE,   SJ. 


CHAPTER  II. 

FROM   NOVICESHIP  TO   PRIESTHOOD 

(1891 — 1907) 

(l.)    TULLABEG,   (1891  — 1893.) 

WHEN  half  way  through  his  second  year's  novitiate 
Willie's  health  began  to  give  anxiety  to  his  superiors, 
and  a  complete  nervous  breakdown  following  a  fire 
at  the  College  led  to  his  being  sent  to  his  home  in  Dalkey 
for  some  months.  In  fact  there  was  question  at  this  time  of 
his  having  to  leave  the  novitiate  for  good  owing  to  his  health. 
Several  doctors  declared  he  was  quite  unfit  for  the  strain  of 
religious  life,  while  superiors  were  almost  unanimous  in  their 
opinion  that  he  should  not  be  kept.  But  Willie  clung  to  his 
vocation,  which  he  felt  was  from  God ;  and  the  Provincial,  Fr. 
Timothy  Kenny,  who  from  the  first  had  formed  a  high  idea 
of  the  young  novice,  declaring  him  to  be  "  as  good  as  gold," 
supported  him  warmly.  A  few  months  of  his  native  air 
and  among  his  beloved  poor  on  the  Hill,  who  joyfully 
welcomed  back  "  Master  Willie  "  and  saw  very  much  of 
him  now,  restored  strength  and  steadiness  of  nerve,  and 
after  making  good  in  the  novitiate  the  time  he  had  spent 
at  home,  Willie  had  the  happiness  of  taking  the  three  vows 
of  religion  on  the  I5th  August,  1893. 

Only  a  few  stray  sheets  survive  to  give  us  all  too  meagre 
information  concerning  the  inner  life  of  the  novice. 
Fortunately  one  precious  little  document  remains  to  attest 
his  astonishing  fervour. 

A.M.D.G.   ac   B.V.M. 
My  Martyrdom  for  Mary's  Sake. 

"  Darling  Mother  Mary,  in  preparation  for  the  glorious 
martyrdom  which  I  feel  assured  thou  art  going  to  obtain 
for  me,  I,  thy  most  unworthy  child,  oh  this  the  first  day 
of  thy  month,  solemnly  commence  my  life  of  slow  martyrdom 


TULLABEG  n 

by  earnest  hard  work  and  constant  self-denial.  With  my 
blood  I  promise  thee  to  keep  this  resolution,  do  ihou,  sweet 
Mother,  assist  me  and  obtain  for  me  the  one  favour  I  wish 
and  long  for  :  To  die  a  Jesuit  Martyr. 

May  ist,  1893. 

May  God's  will,  not  mine,  be  done  !     Amen." 

The  words  here  italicised  are  in  the  original  written  with 
the  writer's  own  blood  for  ink  ;  and  on  each  side  of  the 
word  "  martyr  "  is  a  smudge  of  blood,  as  if  thus  to  seal  his 
compact  with  our  Lady.1  One  feels  that  it  is  a  sacred 
privilege  to  gaze  after  the  lapse  of  twenty-six  years  on  this 
touching  contract  between  the  Jesuit  novice  and  his  heavenly 
Mother,  chivalrously  sealed  with  his  blood.  Think  of  the 
twenty-four  years  of  life  which  remained  to  the  novice  ! 
Right  well  did  he  keep  his  compact ;  his  was  a  "  life  of  slow 
martyrdom  by  earnest  hard  work  and  constant  self-denial." 
And  the  compact  was  kept  in  heaven  also.  As  on  earth  of 
yore,  "  Mary  kept  all  these  words,  pondering  them  in  her 
heart."  Our  Blessed  Lady  obtained  for  him  the  one  favour 
he  wished  and  longed  for.  William  Doyle  died  a  Jesuit 
Martyr.2 

Some  reflections  and  resolutions  which  he  recorded  during 
the  triduum  of  preparation  for  his  vows,  have  also  happily 
survived  and  may  here  be  set  down. 

"  It  depends  entirely  on  myself  whether  I  become  a  saint 
or  not.  If  I  wish  and  will  to  be  one,  half  the  battle  is  over. 
Certainly  God's  help  is  secured.  Every  fresh  effort  to  become 
holy  gets  fresh  grace,  and  grace  is  what  makes  the  soul  holy 
and  pleasing  to  God. 

"  God  has  a  work  for  each  one  to  do  ;  the  devil  also.  For 
each  one  can  be  an  influence  for  good  or  evil  to  those  around. 
No  one  goes  to  heaven  or  hell  alone.  Unless  I  am  holy,  I 
may  do  the  devil's  work.  The  closer  I  try  to  imitate  the 
Sacred  Heart,  the  holier  shall  I  become.  How  can  I  get 
nearer  that  Divine  Heart  than  by  receiving  Holy  Communion 
often  and  fervently  ?  The  Sacred  Heart  will  then  be  next 

i. — Compare    Bl.    Margaret    Mary's   resolution  written   in  her  blood. — Life 
(Visitation  Library,  Roselands,  Walmer,  Kent,  1912),  p.  42. 
2.— Even  as  a  boy  he  longed  to  be  a  martyr.     See  pp.  53,  251. 


12  FATHER   WILLIAM   DOYLE,   SJ. 

my  own  and  will  teach  me  quickest  and  best  how  to  be  a 
saint. 

"  Can  I  refuse  to  become  holy  when  God  Himself  entreats 
me  to  be  holy  ?  '  Walk  before  Me  and  be  perfect.'  '  Be 
perfect  as  your  heavenly  Father  is  perfect.'  Another  great 
motive  for  becoming  a  saint — the  wish,  the  command  of 
God  !  I  have  been  called  by  God  to  be  a  member  of  the 
Society  of  His  Son.  To  be  a  true  Jesuit  I  must  be  a  close 
imitator  of  Jesus  Christ,  an  '  alter  Christus.'  The  Society 
was  instituted  to  glorify  the  Name  of  Jesus  by  its  learning, 
by  its  zeal,  but  above  all  by  its  holiness.  I  must,  therefore, 
strain  after  three  things  :  to  become  learned,  an  authority 
on  all  subjects,  not  for  self  or  the  glory  of  self,  but  for  God 
and  the  glory  of  God  ;  to  become  a  lover  of  souls  ;  to  become 
holy,  this  first  and  foremost,  because  the  Jesuit  without 
sanctity  is  no  true  son  of  Ignatius. 

"  O  loving  Saviour,  forgive  me  the  past,  accept  me 
repentant,  help  me,  for  I  am  going  to  become  with  Thy 
assistance — A  Thorough  Jesuit  and  a  Great  Saint." 


(2.)  CLONGOWES,  (1894 — 1898.) 


Soon  after  taking  the  vows  of  religion  Willie's  health 
again  broke  down.  So  once  more  he  was  sent  to  recuperate 
in  his  native  air  and  as  before  with  good  results.  By  the 
following  August  he  was  able  to  take  up  his  new  duties  in 
Clongowes  Wood  College  to  which  he  was  now  assigned. 
Willie  was  stationed  in  Clongowes  during  two  periods,  from 
1894  to  1898,  and  again  from  1901  to  1903.  His  first  year 
there  was  spent  in  teaching,  the  other  five  as  prefect.  He 
showed  considerable  ability  as  a  teacher,  but  other  qualities 
which  he  possessed  decided  his  superiors  to  entrust  him 
with  the  difficult  work  of  prefecting.  As  prefect  he  won 
remarkable  success  and  popularity.  He  was  a  good  organiser, 
excelled  in  all  outdoor  sports,  while  he  threw  himself  with 
characteristic  energy  into  the  interests  and  activities  of  the 


CLONGOWES  13 

little  world  around  him.  With  the  boys  he  was  a  favourite. 
He  was  very  kind  and  very  just,  two  qualities  that  appeal 
to  boys  and  win  their  respect  and  esteem.  Yet  there  was 
a  certain  awe  mingled  with  their  affection,  for,  as  they  used 
to  say,  they  could  never  quite  make  him  out.  This  was 
the  result  of  his  imperturbability  and  eveness  of  temper, 
joined  to  a  strong  will  and  virile  character.  He  was  never 
angry  with  the  boys,  yet  he  always  had  his  way  ;  they  simply 
had  to  do  what  he  wanted  them  to  do. 

One  who  was  under  him  as  a  boy  writes  :  "I  first  met 
Fr.  Doyle  when  I  was  a  small  boy  at  Clongowes.  He  was 
then  Third  Line  Prefect,  and  had  under  his  care  some  seventy 
or  eighty  boys  ranging  from  ten  to  fifteen  years  of  age.  This 
particular  set  were  rowdy  and  quarrelsome,  and  during  my 
first  year  in  the  Line  there  were  two  periods,  at  least,  of 
acute  disturbance.  Not  that  the  trouble  circled  round 
Fr.  Doyle  or  was  directed  against  him,  nor  was  it  caused 
by  any  act  on  his  part,  but  arose  out  of  feuds  among  the 
boys  themselves.  The  manner  in  which  Fr.  Doyle  dealt 
with  this  difficult  situation  impressed  me  even  at  the  time, 
and  I  have  been  more  deeply  impressed  again  and  again 
in  retrospection.  Hot  tempered  by  nature,  I  believe,  he 
never  allowed  himself  to  be  carried  into  arbitrary  action  by 
the  intemperate  or  unreasonable  conduct  of  those  in  his 
charge.  He  was  firm,  but  never  unjust ;  indeed,  if  he  erred 
at  all,  it  was  on  the  side  of  leniency.  But  apart  from  his 
self-control,  the  quality  that  struck  me  most  was  his 
optimism,  his  breezy  cheerfulness  in  the  midst  of  difficulties. 
He  never  lost  his  good  spirits ;  he  never  seemed  to  be 
depressed  ;  he  never  appeared  to  consider  for  a  moment 
how  trouble  in  his  department  affected  himself ;  he  was 
intent  always  on  setting  others  on  the  right  track. 

"  I  recall  one  memorable  scene.  It  is  a  common  occurrence 
in  Clongowes  for  one  cricket  club  to  challenge  another.  The 
consequences  for  the  loser  are  serious,  since  the  beaten  side 
is  liable  to  confiscation  of  its  bats,  pads,  in  fact  all  its  good 
gear,  and  to  get  in  exchange  the  battered  property  of  its 
rival.  This  is  the  material  aspect  of  the  result,  but  there 
is  a  more  important  element  at  stake,  the  loss  or  gain,  namely, 
of  prestige.  In  the  instance  to  which  I  refer,  the  game 


14  FATHER  WILLIAM  DOYLE,   S.J. 

was  keenly  contested  and  feeling  ran  high.  The  junior 
club  won  eventually  by  a  narrow  margin.  Whereupon  the 
beaten  side  declared  that  the  victors  had  '  doctored  '  the 
score.  Immediately  there  was  uproar,  and  quiet  was  restored 
only  when  someone  proposed  that  Fr.  Doyle  should  be  called 
in  to  arbitrate.  He  gave  the  case  against  the  defeated 
eleven.  This  verdict  so  exasperated  one  of  the  boys  that 

he  called  Fr.  Doyle  a  '  d cheat ! '  This  outburst  cleared 

the  atmosphere  and  produced  a  sudden  calm,  as  nobody 
knew  what  would  follow  this  amazing  piece  of  impudence. 
But  Fr.  Doyle  did  nothing.  Two  or  three  days  passed,  and 
the  culprit,  who  was  prepared  to  take  a  flogging  and  hate 
his  Prefect  to  the  end  of  his  days,  began  to  grow  sorry  for 
his  conduct  when  he  saw  that  no  move  was  being  made 
against  him.  At  last  he  apologised,  offering  to  accept 
punishment,  but  Fr.  Doyle  only  laughed  good  humouredly, 
and  gave  him  biscuits  and  lemonade  and  a  few  pieces  of 
sound  advice.  Fr.  Doyle  won  a  fast  friend  and  a  most 
loyal  supporter,  but  his  self-control  under  the  circumstances 
needed  character. 

"  Fr.  Doyle's  example  worked  good.  His  cheerfulness,  his 
energy,  his  enthusiasm  were  infectious  and  inspiring.  His 
whole  conduct  was  marked  by  gentleness  and  a  kindly 
thoughtfulness  that  gained  him  loyalty  and  affection.  In 
the  playing  fields  he  was  a  tower  of  strength.  I  can  still 
recall  the  admiration  with  which  I  watched  him  play  full 
back,  or  stump  a  batsman  who  had  his  toe  barely  off  the 
ground.  But  above  all  he  gave  the  impression  to  us  boys 
of  one  who  lived  much  in  the  presence  of  God.  I  know  one 
boy,  at  least,  who  entered  the  Society  of  Jesus,  partly,  at 
any  rate,  because  Fr.  Doyle  was  such  a  splendid  man  and 
splendid  Jesuit." 

Another  who  lived  and  worked  with  Willie  in  his  early 
days  in  the  Society  and  at  Clongowes  writes  :  "  Thinking 
of  Fr.  Willie  Doyle,  I  recall  especially  his  gay,  light-hearted 
ways,  the  cheery  laugh  and  snatch  of  song  with  which  he 
enlivened  recreation  hours  or  holiday  excursions.  Into  the 
latter  he  threw  himself  with  zest  and  was  an  excellent  com 
panion.  He  could  not  resist  the  temptation  of  indulging 
from  time  to  time  in  a  practical  joke.  Practical  jokes  are 


CLONGOWES  15 

not  welcomed  by  everyone,  but  he  carried  them  through 
with  such  good  humour  and  playfulness  that  the  victim 
was  soon  tempted  to  relax  and  join  in  the  laugh.  Indeed 
his  love  of  a  joke  never  wholly  deserted  him.  He  grew 
graver  as  he  had  more  and  more  to  do  with  the  burdens 
and  cares  of  life — and  how  many  were  the  persons  whose 
burdens  he  helped  to  carry  ! — but  even  to  the  end  he  retained 
in  a  large  measure  his  gaiety  of  heart  and  his  cheery  outlook. 
Nothing  seemed  able  to  depress  him  for  any  length  of  time. 

"  One  did  not  have  to  live  long  with  him  to  see  that  his 
gaiety  of  disposition,  an  essential  part  of  his  nature  though 
it  was,  was  still  only  the  sparkle  on  the  surface,  and  that 
below  it  ran  the  current  of  a  downright  earnest  religious 
life — a  current  that  deepened  and  gained  in  strength  as  he 
advanced  in  life.  Not.  .that  he  made  any  ostentation  of 
piety  or  asceticism — there  was  not  the  slightest  sign  of  this 
about  him.  On  the  contrary,  he  was  ever  reserved  about 
himself  and  guarded  closely  the  secrets  of  his  spiritual  life. 
But  many  little  acts  of  self-restraint,  self-denial  and  self- 
sacrifice,  made  me  feel  that  he  was  trying  seriously  and 
steadily  to  acquire  the  solid  virtues  which  befit  a  man  who 
would  give  himself  wholly  to  God. 

"  After  the  novitiate  and  juniorate  Fr.  Doyle  and  I  were 
together  for  some  years  in  Clongowes  Wood  College.  In 
the  life  there,  with  its  larger  liberty  of  action,  new  phases 
in  his  character  showed  themselves.  He  began  to  display 
a  more  than  common  spirit  of  initiative  and  enterprise,  an 
energy  and  resourcefulness  in  carrying  out  what  he  had 
undertaken,  and  a  marked  tenacity  of  purpose.  His  pro 
duction  of  The  Mikado  may  be  instanced.  For  some 
considerable  time  elaborate  plays  had  not  been  attempted 
at  Clongowes,  owing  to  the  heavy  demands  on  time  and 
attention  made  by  the  Intermediate  examinations.  When 
Mr.  Doyle  obtained  permission  to  try  his  hand  at  producing 
this  opera,  he  seemed  to  be  attempting  the  impossible.  Few 
good  singers  and  actors  were  known  to  be  among  the  boys. 
Everything  was  wanting,  scenery,  costumes,  and  the  money 
to  buy  them  ;  and  above  all  time  to  practise,  for  the  studies 
could  in  no  way  be  allowed  to  suffer.  There  appeared  to 
be  a  sufficiency  of  one  thing  only — cold  water ;  and  that 


16  FATHER   WILLIAM   DOYLE,   SJ. 

was  freely  poured  on  the  scheme.  Mr.  Doyle  kept  his  own 
counsel  and  set  to  work  quietly  and  determinedly.  He 
unearthed  talent,  trained  his  actors  and  singers  assiduously, 
enlisted  help,  and  by  his  tact,  energy  and  perseverance,  he 
overcame  every  obstacle,  and  in  the  end  The  Mikado  was 
a  triumphant  success  and  proved  to  be  one  of  the  most 
brilliant  performances  ever  witnessed  on  the  stage  of 
Clongowes. 

"As  another  instance  of  his  spirit  of  initiative  I  may 
mention  the  starting  of  the  college  magazine,  The  Clongownian, 
of  which  he  was  the  Founder  and  the  first  Editor.  Here 
again  there  were  the  usual  difficulties  and  opposition  to  a 
new  venture,  but  these  were  put  aside  with  unfailing  courage 
and  perseverance,  and  the  first  number  of  The  Clongownian 
appeared  during  the  Christmas  of  1895. 

"  Though  not  a  Clongownian  Mr.  Doyle  had  much  to  do 
with  the  founding  of  the  Clongowes  Union  which  was  proposed 
and  worked  up  in  The  Clongownian  for  a  considerable  time 
before  it  actually  came  into  being. 

"  Viewing  his  character  as  a  whole,  it  seems  to  me  that 
the  fundamental  quality  in  it  was  courage — courage  of  a 
fine  and  generous  type.  When  confronted  with  difficulties, 
with  danger  or  labour  or  pain,  instead  of  hesitating  or  weakly 
compromising,  he  was  rather  braced  to  a  new  and  more 
intense  resolve  to  see  the  matter  out.  Give  in,  he  would 
not.  It  was  this  courage,  supported,  no  doubt,  by  a  natural 
liveliness  of  disposition,  that  enabled  him  to  preserve  through 
life  his  gaiety  of  heart  and  to  face  his  troubles  as  they  came 
with  a  smiling  countenance ;  it  was  this  courage,  too,  that 
steeled  him  to  hold  fast  to  his  purpose  no  matter  what 
difficulties  or  obstacles  might  arise." 

We  have  here  the  testimony  of  one  who  for  many  years 
lived  and  worked  with  Fr.,  or,  as  he  was  then,  Mr.  Doyle. 
It  is  the  more  valuable  as  the  writer  could  only  guess  at 
the  inner  life  of  him  whom  he  pictured  as  remarkably 
courageous  and  encouragingly  cheerful.  Unfortunately,  no 
intimate  jottings  of  this  period  could  be  found ;  so  we  can 
only  dimly  conjecture  the  deep  undercurrent  of  faith  and 
grace  which  made  Willie  Doyle  so  wholehearted  and  efficient 
in  carrying  out  the  duties  which  obedience  had  assigned. 


CLONGOWES  17 

There  seems  to  the  outward  glance  an  enormous  difference 
between  the  claustral  seclusion  and  silence  of  Tullabeg  and 
the  busy  bustling  life  of  Clongowes.  We  find  it  curious 
that  the  demure  introspective  novice  should  rather  suddenly 
develop  into  a  distracted  college  prefect  immersed  in  games 
and  plays.  That  is  because  we  miss  the  inner  key,  the 
Ignatian  ideal  of  God  in  everything.  The  point  is  worth 
emphasising  if  we  would  rightly  understand  the  life  of  a 
Jesuit,  such  as  this  biography.  In  1551  St.  Ignatius  wrote 
to  the  Rector  of  Coimbra  that  "  he  desired  to  see  all  the 
members  of  the  Society  animated  with  such  a  spirit  that 
they  do  not  find  less  devotion  in  works  of  charity  and 
obedience  than  in  prayer  and  meditation,  since  they  ought 
to  do  everything  for  the  love  and  service  of  God  our 
Lord."1  Ignatius  consistently  refused  to  increase  the  time 
allotted  to  scholastics'  daily  prayer  beyond  one  hour.  He 
once  said  to  Fr.  Nadal  that  "  no  one  would  ever  make  him 
change  his  opinion  that  one  hour  was  sufficient  for  those 
engaged  in  study,  provided  they  have  mortification  and 
self-denial ;  for  thus  they  will  easily  fit  more  prayer  into  a 
quarter  of  an  hour  than  others  who  are  unmodified  into 
two  hours  "2  "  During  their  works  and  studies,"  he  wrote,3 
"  they  can  lift  their  hearts  to  God  ;  and  if  they  direct  every 
thing  to  the  divine  service,  everything  becomes  a  prayer." 

It  is  this  apostolic  fusion  of  work  and  prayer  which  a 
Jesuit  noviceship  is  designed  to  produce.  The  semi-monastic 
quietness  and  solitude  is  not  an  end  in  itself  ;  it  is  merely 
the  stillness  of  the  power-house  where  unseen,  but  energy- 
laden,  currents  are  generated.  When  Brother  Doyle  resolved 
as  a  novice  to  begin  a  "  life  of  slow  martyrdom  by  earnest 
hard  work  and  constant  self-denial,"  he  was  not  only  a  true 
child  of  St.  Ignatius  but  he  was  making  a  resolution  destined 
to  be  immediately  realisable.  He  who  erstwhile  had  his 
heart  set  on  the  priesthood  had  to  turn  aside  and  devote 
the  fresh  energy  of  his  youth  to  minding  thoughtless  and 
unruly  youngsters,  settling  their  little  squabbles,  entering 

i.- — Epistolae  iii.  502.     ( Monumenta  Historica  S.J.) 

2.. — Scripta  de  S.  Ignatio  5.  278.     As  a  matter  of  fact  a  Jesuit  Scholastic  nowa 
days  has  at  least  two  and  a-half  hours  of  daily  prayer. 
3. — Epistolae  vi.  91. 
B 


18  FATHER  WILLIAM   DOYLE,   SJ. 

into  their  petty  interests,  mending  cricket  gear,  and  rehearsing 
theatricals.  Earnest  hard  work  was  done  in  full  measure, 
and  has  received  its  human  tribute.  God's  angels  alone 
can  estimate  the  constant  self-denial  involved.  How  little 
can  the  world's  coarse  thumb  and  finger  plumb  the  inner 
depths  of  what  outwardly  is  serenity,  pleasantness,  and 
ready  service  !  In  this  period  of  Willie  Doyle's  life  we  can 
see  only  the  outer  expression,  later  on  we  shall  be  privileged 
to  read  the  record  of  his  soul.  It  is  well  to  realise  now  that 
seemingly  natural  activities  and  humdrum  duties  are  based 
on  an  inner  struggle  and  a  life  of  faith.  It  will  be  well  to 
remember  afterwards  that  an  interior  life  of  slow  martyrdom 
does  not  imply  an  unnatural  or  morose  exterior. 


(3.)  PHILOSOPHY,  (1898—1901.) 


In  the  ordinary  course  of  events  the  young  Jesuit 
Scholastic,1  on  emerging  from  the  two  years'  noviceship, 
spends  one  or  two  years  in  the  "  juniorate  "  completing 
his  college  studies  ;  or,  more  usually  nowadays,  he  studies 
for  a  university  degree.  After  this  he  pursues  a  course  of 
philosophy  for  three  years,  and  only  then  is  he  sent  to  some 
college  to  act  as  master  or  prefect  for  some  years  before 
he  begins  his  theological  studies.  In  the  case  of  Willie  Doyle 
considerations  of  health  led  to  a  deviation  from  the  usual 
course.  His  juniorate  had  to  be  interrupted  by  a  long  visit 
to  his  home  in  Dalkey,  and  when  sufficiently  recovered,  he 
was  sent  to  Clongowes.  After  he  had  worked  four  years 
there,  it  was  decided  that  he  was  sufficiently  strong  to  resume 
his  studies.  In  1898  he  was  sent  to  Belgium  to  study 
philosophy.  He  joined  the  exiled  French  Jesuits  of  the 
Champagne  Province,  who  had  a  house  of  studies  at  Enghien, 
near  Brussels.  But  continental  life  told  severely  on  a 

J. — A  Jesuit  is  a  "scholastic"  during  the  whole  formative  perioc?  from  his 
first  to  his  final  vows. 


PHILOSOPHY  19 

constitution  that  was  still  delicate,  and  he  suffered  much. 
Through  it  all,  however,  he  was  just  the  same  cheerful, 
lighthearted  comrade  as  before,  repressing  any  sign  of  pain 
or  discouragement  he  may  have  felt,  and  breaking  out  every 
now  and  then  into  some  audacious  prank  that  made  him 
the  wonder  and  despair  of  the  good  French  fathers.  After 
a  year  of  ill-health  he  was  transferred  to  Saint  Mary's  Hall, 
Stonyhurst,  where  he  pursued  his  philosophical  studies  for 
two  years  more.  Even  here  bad  health  continued  and  made 
work  very  hard,  but  he  persevered  unflinchingly.  Though 
suffering  very  much  from  digestive  trouble,  he  never  com 
plained  and  was  always  bright  and  cheerful.  His 
extraordinary  good  spirits  were  most  remarkable,  indeed 
quite  infectious.  It  was  difficult  to  be  out  of  sorts  in  the 
company  of  one  who  was  known  to  be  suffering,  but  who 
nevertheless  was  full  of  fun  and  gaiety.  Yet  he  could  be 
very  determined  and  earnest;  and  when  he  took  anything 
in  hand,  he  saw  it  through  to  the  end,  cost  what  it  might. 

Among  the  philosophers  at  Stonyhurst,  Willie  was  a 
universal  favourite  ;  his  simple,  unassuming  character,  his 
high  spirits,  above  all  his  readiness  to  sacrifice  himself  for 
others,  endeared  him  to  everybody.  He  was  at  Stonyhurst 
during  the  Boer  War  when  feeling  naturally  ran  high  among 
the  different  nationalities  which  formed  the  community,  but 
though  he  took  a  different  view  from  the  majority  with 
whom  he  lived,  he  never  lost  the  respect  and  esteem  of  any, 
even  of  those  from  whom  he  most  differed.  Thanks  to  his 
playful  vivacity  he  could  venture  to  joke  and  chaff  about 
matters  that  touched  differences  of  national  sentiment,  and 
by  so  doing  he  helped  to  prevent  any  sense  of  strain  from 
creeping  into  the  situation.  His  love  of  fun  was  inexhaustible 
and  led  to  many  amusing  incidents.  One  of  the  winters  he 
spent  at  Stonyhurst  was  very  severe  and  there  was  much 
tobogganing.  Willie  was  very  anxious  to  possess  a  sledge 
that  would  be  a  credit  to  the  Old  Country — he  was  always 
thoroughly  Irish.  Accordingly  he  approached  the  Father 
Minister  of  the  house  for  permission  to  get  the  carpenter  to 
finish  a  toboggan  for  him.  It  turned  out  that  the 
"  finishing "  meant  the  making  it,  Willie's  part  being  to 
furnish  the  wood  and  the  idea.  When  "  finished,"  the 
"  Irish  Mail "  was  the  envy  of  all  ! 


eo  FATHER  WILLIAM   DOYLE,   SJ. 

No  records  survive  to  tell  us  of  Willie's  inner  life  at  this 
period.  Just  one  letter  has  been  found.  It  was  written 
to  his  parents  from  Stonyhurst  on  3ist  March,  1901,  and 
was  evidently  treasured  up  as  a  precious  keepsake  consoling 
to  the  heart  of  a  Catholic  father. 

"  Ten  years  ago,  to-day,  I  went  to  Tullabeg  and  entered 
on  my  career  as  a  novice  of  the  Society.  Looking  back  on 
it  all  now,  it  seems  hard  to  realize  that  ten  long  years  have 
gpne  by  since  that  eventful  day  on  which  I  took  a  step  which 
has  meant  so  much  for  me,  and  which,  thank  God,  during 
all  this  time  I  have  never  for  a  moment  regretted.  Our 
Lord  was  very  good  to  me  at  that  time,  smoothing  away 
many  difficulties  and  making  that  day,  which,  to  human 
nature  at  least,  was  full  of  sorrow,  one  of  the  happiest  of 
all  my  life. 

"  I  remember  well  my  arrival  at  Tullabeg  and  the  way 
I  astonished  the  Father  Socius  (as  he  told  me  afterwards) 
by  running  up  to  the  hall  door  three  steps  at  a  time.  He 
was  not  accustomed,  he  said,  to  see  novices  coming  in  such 
a  merry  mood,  evidently  enjoying  the  whole  thing;  and, 
though  I  did  not  know  it  then,  it  was  the  best  of  signs  of  a 
real  vocation. 

"  Since  then  I  have  gone  on  from  day  to  day  and  year 
to  year,  with  the  same  cheerful  spirits,  making  the  best  of 
difficulties  and  always  trying  to  look  at  the  bright  side  of 
things.  True,  from  time  to  time,  there  have  been  trials 
and  hard  things  to  face — even  a  Jesuit's  life  is  not  all  roses — 
but  through  it  all  I  can  honestly  say,  I  have  never  lost  that 
deep  interior  peace  and  contentment  which  sweetens  the 
bitter  things  and  makes  rough  paths  smooth. 

"  I  think  this  will  be  a  consolation  to  you,  dearest  Father 
and  Mother,  for  I  have  often  pictured  you  to  myself  as 
wondering  if  I  were  really  happy  and  content.  I  could  not 
be  more  so,  and  were  I  to  look  upon  religious  life  from  the 
sole  aspect  of  what  makes  for  the  greatest  happiness,  I  would 
not  exchange  it  for  all  the  pleasures  the  world  could  offer. 
Thank  God  for  all  His  goodness,  and  after  Him,  many  grateful 
thanks  to  you  both,  dearest  Father  and  Mother,  for  that 
good  example  and  loving  care  to  which  we  all  owe 
so  much." 


CLONGOWES  AND   BELVEDERE  21 


(4.)  CLONGOWES  AND  BELVEDERE,  (1901 — 1904.) 

Having  completed  his  course  of  philosophy,  Willie  returned 
to  Clongowes  in  1901  for  another  period  of  prefecting.  Here 
he  remained  for  two  years,  and  he  was  then  transferred 
to  the  teaching  staff  of  Belvedere  College,  Dublin,  where  he 
spent  a  fruitful  year  of  labour.  For,  as  the  immediate 
preparation  for  the  priesthood  drew  near,  zeal  for  souls  that 
was  afterwards  to  become  so  strong  and  ardent,  began  now 
to  show  itself  more  markedly  in  his  life.  He  did  much  good 
work  for  the  Apostleship  of  Prayer  and  for  temperance 
among  the  boys  in  Belvedere,  with  whom  he  was  even  more 
popular  than  among  those  he  had  left  behind  in  Clongowes. 
The  stirring  little  talks  he  gave  occasionally  to  his  class 
made  an  impression  which  some  of  his  pupils  still  recall. 
Especially  was  he  insistent  on  the  spirit  of  self-sacrifice  and 
on  Holy  Communion.  His  attractive  character  and  kind 
ness  led  many  of  the  boys  to  give  him  their  confidence  and 
seek  help  and  counsel  in  their  difficulties  and  doubts ;  and 
more  than  one  vocation  was  discussed  and  decided  at  these 
interviews. 

A  fellow  religious  who  lived  with  him  during  his  last  years 
in  the  colleges,  and  who  was  in  America  at  the  time  of  his 
death,  wrote  :  "I  can  safely  say  he  was  a  perfect  Jesuit 
and  often  reminded  me  of  St.  John  Berchmans.  His  was 
a  combination  of  real  solid  piety  with  a  truly  human 
character.  Bright  and  joyous  himself,  he  always  made 
others  happy  and  was  evidently  happy  to  be  able  to  do  so. 
To  those  who  knew  his  self-sacrificing  devotedness  there 
could  be  no  doubt  as  to  the  identity  of  the  heroic  Irish  Padre 
the  first  despatches  recording  his  death  spoke  of.  So  certain 
was  I,  that  I  told  my  friends  here  that  the  hero  was  Fr.  Willie. 
Only  three  weeks  later  did  I  receive  corroboration  from  the 
Irish  papers."  Yet  later  on  Willie  was  to  reproach  himself 
for  his  want  of  zeal  and  general  tepidity  during  his  years 
as  prefect  and  master.  "  I  only  wish  you  could  see,"  he 
once  wrote  to  a  dear  friend,  "  how  heartily  ashamed  of 
myself  God  makes  me  by  each  fresh  grace.  Perhaps  you 


22  FATHER  WILLIAM  DOYLE,   S.J. 

will  realize  this  better  when  I  tell  you  that  at  one  period 
of  my  religious  life,  before  I  was  a  priest,  I  led  a  very  careless 
spiritual  existence.  It  began  by  overwork — of  my  own 
making — so  that  often  I  was  not  in  bed  until  three  in  the 
morning,  with  the  usual  results.  I  felt  at  last  I  was  walking 
near  the  edge  of  the  precipice,  while  all  £he  time,  though  it 
may  sound  incredible,  God  was  tugging  at  my  heart  for  a 
life  of  perfection,  and  I  was  writing  down  at  each  triduum 
and  retreat  my  determination  to  become  with  His  grace 
a  saint  !  Can  you  understand  now  why  I  am  so  eloquent 
on  the  tepid  religious  ?  This  could  not  go  on.  I  was  driven 
half  mad  by  the  thought  of  the  abuse  of  grace  and  the  gentle 
pleading  day  and  night  of  Jesus.  Then  in  the  midst  of  all 
this  tepidity,  when  I  was  praying  little,  when  there  was 
hardly  a  deliberate  act  of  self-denial  in  the  day,  there  came 
an  extraordinary  grace — one  I  felt  I  could  not  resist — to 
make  the  Holy  Hour  each  week.  I  actually  began  to  do 
so,  though  at  the  time  it  must  have  been  torture  to  me,  I 
think.  I  would  not  do  what  God  wanted  me  to  do,  so  He 
made  me.  I  fought  against  Him  like  a  tiger,  but  His  mercy 
and  patient  gentleness  won  ;  and  I  should  be  a  strange 
ungrateful  creature  if  I  did  not  long  now  with  all  my  soul 
to  love  Him  passionately." 

We  gather  from  this  touching  letter  of  self-revelation 
that,  strenuously  active  and  efficient  as  he  was  at  his  college 
duties,  he  felt  that  "  God  was  tugging  at  his  heart  for  a  life 
of  perfection "  and  grace  was  urging  him  to  more  than 
ordinary  holiness.  Now,  too,  he  began  a  practice  which  for 
the  remainder  of  his  life  he  regarded  as  a  fruitful  source 
of  grace  and  strength :  the  Holy  Hour.  Looking  back 
indeed  on  these  years  in  the  light  of  his  maturer  experience 
and  spiritual  progress  as  a  priest,  he  bewailed  them  as  years 
of  careless  abuse  of  grace.  God  grant  that  many  of  us 
may  reach  even  such  "  tepidity  "  ! 


THEOLOGY  23 


(5.)  THEOLOGY,   (1904 — 1907.) 

In  September,  1904,  Willie  Doyle  went  to  Milltown  Park, 
Dublin,  to  begin  the  study  of  theology.  He  now  felt  the 
handicap  of  the  deficient  course  of  philosophy  which  his 
ill-health  had  necessitated.  But  he  worked  hard  and 
courageously,  not  so  much  to  become  a  brilliant  theologian 
as  to  obtain  a  solid  knowledge  of  all  subjects  useful  to  the 
sacred  ministry.  While  he  diligently  studied  Latin  manuals 
which  he  must  have  often  found  dull  and  difficult,  he  was 
not  unmindful  of  Father  de  la  Colombiere's  advice  to  a 
young  theologian  :  "  For  myself,  had  I  the  opportunity  of 
going  through  my  theological  studies  again,  I  would,  I  can 
assure  you,  give  to  meditation  double  the  time  devoted  to 
reading.  It  is  only  by  meditation  that  one  can  gain  any 
insight  into  things  spiritual  or  form  any  stable  opinion  upon 
matters  controversial."1  The  officially  prescribed  theological 
lectures  and  textbooks  are,  after  all,  only  the  skeleton  ;  it 
is  left  to  the  student  himself,  or  rather  with  God's  grace,  to 
add  substance  and  life.  Willie  Doyle  strove  not  only  to 
advance  in  personal  holiness,  but  also  carefully  devoted 
himself  to  conscientiously  preparing  himself  for  his  future 
work  of  retreats  and  missions.  The  numerous  manuscript 
books  which  at  this  time  he  filled  with  extracts,  spiritual 
considerations  and  sermon-plans,  serve  to  show  us  that  it 
was  by  diligent  drudgery  and  faithful  cooperation  that  he 
merited  God's  blessing  on  his  fruitful  subsequent  ministry. 

He  seems  at  this  time  to  have  kept  a  private  spiritual 
diary,  but  of  this  only  a  few  detached  leaves  remain.  One 
of  these  is  dated  25th  November,  1906,  and  bears  the  title, 
"  The  Practice  of  Humility  "  : 

"  I  will  strive  to  get  a  great  contempt  for  myself,  to  think 
little  of  and  despise  myself,  and  to  pray  and  desire  that 
others  may  do  the  same.  I  have  nothing  which  God  has 
not  given  me  ;  I  can  do  nothing  without  God's  grace  and 

i.—  E.  Sequin,  Life  6f  the  Ven.  Fr.  Claude  de  la  Colombitre,  1883,  p.  33.  The 
Cure  of  Ars,  let  us  not  forget,  failed  at  his  examination  in  theology. — Life  by 
A.  MoRiiin,  Eng.  trans.  (Burns  &  Gates,  n.d.),  p  35. 


26  FATHER   WILLIAM   DOYLE,   S.J. 


(6.)  SOME  NOTES  WRITTEN  DURING  THEOLOGY. 

Among  the  notes  which  Fr.  Doyle  recorded  during  his 
theology,  there  are  many  which  have  a  personal  touch  and 
embody  his  own  ideals  and  aspirations.  Some  of  them  will 
be  here  quoted  in  order  to  help  us  to  understand  his  ideas 
of  holiness.  He  who  was  soon  to  be  perhaps  imprudent 
himself,  at  least  made  no  mistake  as  to  what  constituted 
true  sanctity. 

"  How  many  deceive  themselves,"  he  wrote,  "  in  thinking 
sanctity  consists  in  the  '  holy  follies  '  of  the  saints  !  How 
many  look  upon  holiness  as  something  beyond  their  reach 
or  capability,  and  think  that  it  is  to  be  found  only  in  the 
performance  of  extraordinary  actions.  Satisfied  that  they 
have  not  the  strength  for  great  austerities,  the  time  for  much 
prayer,  or  the  courage  for  painful  humiliations,  they  silence 
their  conscience  with  the  thought  that  great  sanctity  is  not 
for  them,  that  they  have  not  been  called  to  be  saints.  With 
their  eyes  fixed  on  the  heroic  deeds  of  the  few,  they  miss 
the  daily  little  sacrifices  God  asks  them  to  make ;  and  while 
waiting  for  something  great  to  prove  their  love,  they  lose 
the  countless  little  opportunities  of  sanctification  each  day 
bears  with  it  in  its  bosom."  (Sept...  1905.) 

Again  he  writes  to  the  same  effect. 

"  What  is  it  to  be  a  saint  ?  Does  it  mean  that  we  must 
macerate  this  flesh  of  ours  with  cruel  austerities,  such  as 
we  read  of  in  the  life-story  of  some  of  God's  great  heroes  ? 
Does  it  mean  the  bloody  scourge,  the  painful  vigil  and 
sleepless  night,  that  crucifying  of  the  flesh  in  even  its  most 
innocent  enjoyment  ?  No,  no,  the  hand  of  God  does  not 
lead  us  all  by  that  stern  path  of  awful  heroism  to  our  reward 
above.  He  does  not  ask  from  all  of  us  the  holy  thirst  for 
suffering,  in  its  highest  form,  of  a  Teresa  or  a  Catherine  of 
Siena.  But  sweetly  and  gently  would  He  lead  us  along  the 
way  of  holiness  by  our  constant  unswerving  faithfulness 
to  our  duty,  duty  accepted,  duty  done  for  His  dear  sake. 
How  many  alas  !  who  might  be  saints  are  now  leading  lives 
of  indifferent  virtue,  because  they  have  deluded  themselves 


NOTES  DURING  THEOLOGY  27 

with  the  thought  that  they  have  no  strength  to  bear  the 
'  holy  follies  '  of  the  saints.  How  many  a  fair  flower  of 
innocence,  which  God  had  destined  to  bloom  in  dazzling 
holiness,  has  faded  and  withered  beneath  the  chill  blast  of 
a  fear  of  suffering  never  asked  from  it."  (April,  1905.) 

Word$  such  as  these,  coming  from  the  pen  of  one  who 
was  not  unfamiliar  with  scourge  and  vigil  and  fast,  are  helpful 
and  consoling.  Not  that  they  picture  the  path  of  holiness 
as  other  tlian  the  royal  road  of  the  cross.  Fr.  Doyle  wished 
rather  to  remove  the  mirage  of  an  unreal  and  impossible 
cross  from  the  way  of  those  of  us  whose  true  holiness  is  to 
be  found  in  meeting  the  daily  and  hourly  little  crosses, 
humanly  inglorious  perhaps,  but  divinely  destined  for  our 
sanctification.  In  the  lives  of  canonised  saints,  and  of  him 
whose  life  we  are  recording,  there  are  doubtless  '  holy  follies  ' 
and  grace-inspired  imprudences.  But  these  are  not  the 
essence  of  sanctity  ;  they  are  its  bloom,  whereas  its  stem 
is  self-conquest.  Without  these  there  can  be  great  holiness — 
no  terrifying  penances  marked  the  life  of  St.  John  Berchmans 
or  of  that  winsome  fragile  nun  who  is  known  as  the  Little 
Flower.  But  without  the  slow  secret  mortification  of  doing 
ordinary  and  mostly  trivial  duties  well,  there  can  be  no 
spiritual  advance.  Heroism  is  not  a  sudden  romantic 
achievement ;  it  is  the  fruit  of  years  of  humdrum  faith 
fulness.  This  is  not  only  the  lesson  of  Fr.  Doyle's  heroic 
life  and  death,  it  is  the  idea  which  here  at  the  outset  of  his 
apostolic  career  he  clearly  fixed  for  himself.  His  favourite 
motto  was  St.  Ignatius's  phrase,  agere  contra  :  Act  against 
yourself.  Into  these  two  words  there  is  condensed  the  essence 
of  practical  and  delusion-proof  holiness.  Act,  not  merely 
think  or  feel ;  not  against  outer  or  imaginary  enemies  but 
against  our  lower  selves.  "  How  much  is  comprised  in  the 
little  words  agere  contra  !  Therein  is  the  real  secret  of 
sanctity,  the  hidden  source  from  which  the  saints  have  drunk 
deep  of  the  love  of  God  and  reached  that  height  of  glory  they 
now  enjoy."  (Oct.,  1905.) 

Again  he  records  his  view  of  heroism,  which  always  had 
an  attraction  for  his  chivalrous,  impulsive,  generous  nature. 

"  Heroism,"  he  says,  "  is  a  virtue  which  has  an  attraction 
for  every  heart.  It  seems  to  lift  us  out  of  our  petty  selves 


26  FATHER   WILLIAM   DOYLE,   S.J. 


(6.)  SOME  NOTES  WRITTEN  DURING  THEOLOGY. 

Among  the  notes  which  Fr.  Doyle  recorded  during  his 
theology,  there  are  many  which  have  a  personal  touch  and 
embody  his  own  ideals  and  aspirations.  Some  of  them  will 
be  here  quoted  in  order  to  help  us  to  understand  his  ideas 
of  holiness.  He  who  was  soon  to  be  perhaps  imprudent 
himself,  at  least  made  no  mistake  as  to  what  constituted 
true  sanctity. 

"  How  many  deceive  themselves,"  he  wrote,  "  in  thinking 
sanctity  consists  in  the  '  holy  follies  '  of  the  saints  !  How 
many  look  upon  holiness  as  something  beyond  their  reach 
or  capability,  and  think  that  it  is  to  be  found  only  in  the 
performance  of  extraordinary  actions.  Satisfied  that  they 
have  not  the  strength  for  great  austerities,  the  time  for  much 
prayer,  or  the  courage  for  painful  humiliations,  they  silence 
their  conscience  with  the  thought  that  great  sanctity  is  not 
for  them,  that  they  have  not  been  called  to  be  saints.  With 
their  eyes  fixed  on  the  heroic  deeds  of  the  few,  they  miss 
the  daily  little  sacrifices  God  asks  them  to  make  ;  and  while 
waiting  for  something  great  to  prove  their  love,  they  lose 
the  countless  little  opportunities  of  sanctification  each  day 
bears  with  it  in  its  bosom."  (Sept.,  1905.) 

Again  he  writes  to  the  same  effect. 

"  What  is  it  to  be  a  saint  ?  Does  it  mean  that  we  must 
macerate  this  flesh  of  ours  with  cruel  austerities,  such  as 
we  read  of  in  the  life-story  of  some  of  God's  great  heroes  ? 
Does  it  mean  the  bloody  scourge,  the  painful  vigil  and 
sleepless  night,  that  crucifying  of  the  flesh  in  even  its  most 
innocent  enjoyment  ?  No,  no,  the  hand  of  God  does  not 
lead  us  all  by  that  stern  path  of  awful  heroism  to  our  reward 
above.  He  does  not  ask  from  all  of  us  the  holy  thirst  for 
suffering,  in  its  highest  form,  of  a  Teresa  or  a  Catherine  of 
Siena.  But  sweetly  and  gently  would  He  lead  us  along  the 
way  of  holiness  by  our  constant  unswerving  faithfulness 
to  our  duty,  duty  accepted,  duty  done  for  His  dear  sake. 
How  many  alas  !  who  might  be  saints  are  now  leading  lives 
of  indifferent  virtue,  because  they  have  deluded  themselves 


NOTES  DURING  THEOLOGY  27 

with  the  thought  that  they  have  no  strength  to  bear  the 
'  holy  follies  '  of  the  saints.  How  many  a  fair  flower  of 
innocence,  which  God  had  destined  to  bloom  in  dazzling 
holiness,  has  faded  and  withered  beneath  the  chill  blast  of 
a  fear  of  suffering  never  asked  from  it."  (April,  1905.) 

Word$  such  as  these,  coming  from  the  pen  of  one  who 
was  not  unfamiliar  with  scourge  and  vigil  and  fast,  are  helpful 
and  consoling.  Not  that  they  picture  the  path  of  holiness 
as  other  tlian  the  royal  road  of  the  cross.  Fr.  Doyle  wished 
rather  to  remove  the  mirage  of  an  unreal  and  impossible 
cross  from  the  way  of  those  of  us  whose  true  holiness  is  to 
be  found  in  meeting  the  daily  and  hourly  little  crosses, 
humanly  inglorious  perhaps,  but  divinely  destined  for  our 
sanctification.  In  the  lives  of  canonised  saints,  and  of  him 
whose  life  we  are  recording,  there  are  doubtless  '  holy  follies  ' 
and  grace-inspired  imprudences.  But  these  are  not  the 
essence  of  sanctity  ;  they  are  it's  bloom,  whereas  its  stem 
is  self-conquest.  Without  these  there  can  be  great  holiness — 
no  terrifying  penances  marked  the  life  of  St.  John  Berchmans 
or  of  that  winsome  fragile  nun  who  is  known  as  the  Little 
Flower.  But  without  the  slow  secret  mortification  of  doing 
ordinary  and  mostly  trivial  duties  well,  there  can  be  no 
spiritual  advance.  Heroism  is  not  a  sudden  romantic 
achievement ;  it  is  the  fruit  of  years  of  humdrum  faith 
fulness.  This  is  not  only  the  lesson  of  Fr.  Doyle's  heroic 
life  and  death,  it  is  the  idea  which  here  at  the  outset  of  his 
apostolic  career  he  clearly  fixed  for  himself.  His  favourite 
motto  was  St.  Ignatius Js  phrase,  agere  contra  :  Act  against 
yourself.  Into  these  two  words  there  is  condensed  the  essence 
of  practical  and  delusion-proof  holiness.  Act,  not  merely 
think  or  feel ;  not  against  outer  or  imaginary  enemies  but 
against  our  lower  selves.  "  How  much  is  comprised  in  the 
little  words  agere  contra  !  Therein  is  the  real  secret  of 
sanctity,  the  hidden  source  from  which  the  saints  have  drunk 
deep  of  the  love  of  God  and  reached  that  height  of  glory  they 
now  enjoy."  (Oct.,  1905.) 

Again  he  records  his  view  of  heroism,  which  always  had 
an  attraction  for  his  chivalrous,  impulsive,  generous  nature. 

"  Heroism,"  he  says,  "  is  a  virtue  which  has  an  attraction 
for  every  heart.  It  seems  to  lift  us  out  of  our  petty  selves 


28  FATHER   WILLIAM   DOYLE,   S.J 

and  make  us  for  a  moment  forget  our  own  selfish  interests 
It  appeals  irresistibly  to  the  noble-minded ;  to  the  cowardly 
even,  it  is  a  powerful  stimulus.  Thus  it  is  that  in  all  times 
the  saints  have  ever  had  such  an  attraction  for  men — they 
are  heroes  !  In  their  secret  hidden  lives  of  prayer  and 
penance  men  saw  a  heroism  which  was  not  the  one  sharp 
pang  of  a  fearless  deed,  leaving  their  names  to  history  as 
a  nation's  pride,  but  a  nobler  heroism  of  a  life  of  countless 
noble  deeds,  unknown  perhaps  to  man  ;  by  God  alone  were 
their  secret  victories  seen."  (Nov.,  1905.) 

A  few  months  later  he  wrote  out  a  short  sermon  on  Heroism, 
taking  as  his  text  52.  John  x.  n.  :  "  The  good  shepherd 
giveth  his  life  for  his  sheep." 

"  And  you,  (he  cries),  wives  and  bread-winners,  have  you 
no  task  within  the  fold,  no  little  flock  to  tend  and  guard  ? 
Has  not  God  committed  to  your  care  the  innocent  lambs, 
the  little  ones  of  your  household  ?  Within  the  pasture  of 
your  own  family  are  you  the  good  shepherd,  or  the  thief 
and  the  hireling  ?  .  .  .  Jesus  does  not  ask  from  His 
shepherds  now  the  shedding  of  their  life-blood  But  He 
does  ask  from  them  a  death  more  hard,  more  lingering,  a 
life-long  death  of  sacrifice  for  His  flock,  .  .  .  the  daily 
crucifying  of  every  evil  passion,  the  stamping  out  of  sloth, 
of  anger,  of  drunkenness,  the  constant  striving  after  the 
holiness  of  your  state  of  life.  .  .  .  Look  upon  the  great 
Christ,  the  Good  Shepherd,  hanging  on  the  Cross.  He  is  our 
model,  our  hero.  Gaze  well  upon  His  bleeding  wounds,  His 
mangled  limbs,  that  sad  agony-stricken  face.  Look  well, 
and  pray  with  generous  heart  that  he  may  make  you  in  word 
and  deed  heroes  in  His  service."  (April,  1906.) 

The  final  phase  of  Fr.  Doyle's  life  has  been  so  often  described 
as  heroic  by  those  who  were  well  fitted  to  estimate  heroic 
service  in  a  human  cause,  that  these  few  thoughts  on  heroism 
written  many  years  before,  must  have  for  us  not  only  a 
biographical  interest,  but  an  earnest  impressiveness.  They 
were  not  only  written,  they  were  lived. 

A  similar  personal  interest  attaches  to  this  little  sketch 
of  St.  Francis  Xavier's  death. 

"  Xavier's  hour  has  come,  the  hour  of  his  eternal  reward 
and  never-ending  bliss.  In  a  little  hut,  open  on  all  sides 


NOTES   DURING   THEOLOGY  29 

to  the  biting  blast,  the  great  Apostle  lies  dying.  Far  from 
home  and  all  that  makes  this  life  pleasant,  far  from  the 
quiet  of  his  own  religious  house,  alone  upon  this  barren 
isle,  our  Saint  will  yield  his  soul  to  God.  What  joy  fills 
his  heart  now  at  the  thought  of  the  sacrifices  he  has  made, 
the  honours  he  has  despised,  the  pleasures  left  behind.  Happy 
sufferings  !  Happy  penances  !  He  thinks  of  what  his  life 
might  have  been,  the  life  of  a  gay  worldling,  and  in  gratitude 
he  lifts  his  eyes  to  thank  his  God  for  the  graces  given  him 
What  matter  now  the  hardships  he  has  endured  ?  All,  all, 
are  past,  for  now  the  sweet  reward  of  heaven  is  inviting 
him  to  his  eternal  rest."  (3  Dec.,  1905.) 

As  we  read  of  this  death-scene  of  the  great  Jesuit  apostle, 
unsheltered  and  unhelped,  in  his  wind-swept  hut  on  San- 
Cian,  our  thoughts  inevitably  pass  to  another  Jesuit 
missioner's  death-bed  on  the  shell-swept  ridge  of  Frezenberg 
Thus,  too,  he  faced  his  eternal  rest. 


30  FATHER  WILLIAM   DOYLE,   SJ. 

CHAPTER  III. 
TERTIANSHIP   (1907—1908) 


TWO  years  in  the  novitiate,  seven  years  in  the  colleges, 
three  years  at  philosophy,  three  years  at  theology — it  is 
a  long  professional  course.  But  it  is  not  yet  completed. 
St.  Ignatius  did  not  consider  the  Jesuit  fully  formed  until,  in 
addition  to  the  two  years'  noviceship,  he  has  undergone  a 
third  year  of  probation,  or  a  tertianship,  as  it  is  called.  The 
long  years  of  study  and  teaching  have  left  their  impress  on 
the  religious,  especially  if  pursued  with  that  thoroughness 
which  the  Founder  inculcates.  "  Let  them  anxiously  and 
constantly  apply  their  minds  to  their  studies  ;  let  them  in 
their  prayers  frequently  ask  for  the  grace  to  advance  in 
learning."  So  speak  the  Rules  for  Scholastics.  And 
assuming  this  programme  to  have  been  carried  out, 
St.  Ignatius  considered  that  his  men  needed  a  year  in  "  the 
school  of  the  heart  "  before  they  were  fit  to  work  in  Christ's 
vineyard.  The  tertianship  is  the  noviceship  over  again  ; 
once  more  the  spiritual  exercises  are  undertaken  for  an 
entire  month.  Yet  there  is  a  difference,  for  after  years  of 
study  and  discipline,  the  raw  schoolboy  has  developed  into 
a  mature  religious  and  has  been  ordained  priest.  The 
tertianship  is  the  last  training-period  of  a  Jesuit,  often  it 
is  his  last  chance  of  quiet  leisure  and  spiritual  reflection. 
Hence  for  many  it  is  a  turning-point  in  life ;  it  sheds  a  new 
light  on  the  past  hurried  years  seen  now  in  critical  retrospect, 
it  creates  energy  and  reawakens  ideals  which  permanently 
influence  the  future.  So,  at  least,  it  was  for  Willie  Doyle. 

In  October,  1907,  he  went  to  Tronchiennes,  near  Ghent,  to 
make  his  tertianship.  For  business  reasons  his  route  to 
Belgium  was  through  Pa?  is.  This  gave  him  the  opportunity 
of  making  several  excursions  of  devotion,  some  details  of 
which  survive  in  an  account  which  he  sent  home.  A  kind 
friend  had  provided  him  with  his  fare  second  class  to  Paray- 
le-Monial,  the  home  of  Saint  Margaret  Mary.  By  travelling 


TERTIANSHIP  31 

third  class  he  was  able  to  go  to  Lyons  and  thus  visit  Ars,  to 
whose  saintly  Cure,  Blessed  John  Vianney,  he  had  a  special 
devotion.  At  Paray  the  Jesuit  Fathers  were  living  scattered 
in  twos  or  threes  about  the  town.  He  found  his  way  to  a 
poor  little  house  where  he  was  welcomed  by  an  old,  almost 
blind,  French  Jesuit  who  was  just  sitting  down  to  supper 
when  he  arrived.  "A  lay  brother  put  before  me,"  he  wrote, 
"  what  I  thought  was  a  rather  large  bowl  of  soup  for  one ; 
but  nothing  daunted  I  was  starting  to  demolish  the  lot 
when  the  brother  whispered  in  alarm  :  Oh,  mon  pere,  c'est 
pour  tous  !  "]  Here  at  Paray  Fr.  Doyle  had  the  happiness 
of  saying  Mass  at  the  very  altar  where  our  Lord  appeared 
so  often  to  Saint  Margaret  Mary.  In  spite  of  missing  a 
train,  and  after  an  adventurous  journey  on  a  very  primitive 
steam-tram,  he  found  himself  in  the  spot  hallowed  by  the 
Cure  of  Ars.  Fr.  Doyle  insisted  on  seeing  everything — the 
room  in  which  the  saint  died,  the  half-burnt  curtains  said 
to  have  been  damaged  by  the  devil,  the  little  pan  in  which 
the  holy  man  cooked  the  flour-lumps  which  he  called  cakes. 
He  was  allowed  as  a  special  privilege  to  sit  in  the  Cure's 
confessional,  and  above  all  he  was  able  to  say  Mass  at  his 
shrine,  using  the  saint's  chalice.  Just  above  the  altar 
reposed  the  Cure's  body  in  a  case  of  glass  and  gold.  "  It 
gave  one  a  strange  feeling,"  wrote  Fr.  Doyle,  "  to  see  the  holy 
old  man  lying  before  one  during  Mass,  calm  and  peaceful, 
with  a  heavenly  smile  on  his  face,  just  as  he  died  fifty  years 
ago."  "  I  shall  never  forget  my  visit  to  Ars,"  he  concluded ; 
"  I  knew  all  about  the  Blessed  Cure's  life,  so  that  each  spot 
had  an  interest  and  charm  for  me." 

After  this  Fr.  Doyle  spent  two  days  in  Lyons,  saying  Mass 
twice  at  the  shrine  of  our  Lady  of  Fourvieres.  Then  back 
to  Paris  where  during  an  interval  of  business  he  paid  a  visit 
to  what  was  once  the  Jesuit  house  in  the  Rue  de  Sevres. 
"All  the  Fathers  are  gone,"  he  wrote,  "  and  now  in  each  room 
of  the  huge  house  a  family  is  living,  for  it  has  been  let  by  the 
Government  as  a  tenement  house,  whilst  the  beautiful  church 
has  been  turned  into  a  cinema  hall.  In  another  street  where 
we  had  a  large  college,  a  stage  has  been  erected  on  the  very 

i. — "  Oh,  Father,  that's  for  all  of  you  !  " 


32  FATHER  WILLIAM   DOYLE,   SJ. 

altar ;  and  where  people  once  heard  Mass,  they  now  listen 
to  music-hall  songs.  A  stirring  contrast  to  this  is  the  per 
petual  adoration  at  Montmartre — bands  of  women  pray  all 
day  and  men  watch  at  night."  Fr.  Doyle's  little  trip  was 
soon  over  and  he  arrived  in  Tronchiennes  a  few  days  before 
the  opening  of  the  Long  Retreat  (the  Spiritual  Exercises 
for  thirty  days),  which,  with  three  "  repose  days  "  lasted 
from  loth  October  till  13th  November.  Writing  in  December, 
Fr.  Doyle  thus  refers  to  the  retreat  and  the  tertianship : 

"  I  shall  not  try  to  describe  the  Long  Retreat,  as  we  call 
our  thirty  days'  retreat.  It  is  a  wonderful  time  and  leaves 
an  impression  on  me  such  as  no  number  of  eight  days'  retreats 
could  do.  There  is  no  doubt  that  it  is  a  trying  time,  though 
I  found  it  much  easier  than  I  expected.  But  the  thought 
that  this  is  the  Great  Retreat,  the  harvest  time  of  graces 
helps  one  wonderfully.  The  thirty  days'  retreat  is  indeed 
a  great  privilege,  yet  the  year  we  are  given  here  is  even  a 
greater  favour.  St.  Ignatius  intended  that,  after  devoting 
fifteen  or  sixteen  years  to  acquiring  all  the  knowledge  possible, 
this  year  of  tertianship  should  be  devoted  wholly  to  the 
study  of  perfection  ;  hence  practically  the  entire  day  is 
given  to  spiritual  things.  Are  we  not  fortunate  in  having 
such  an  opportunity  of  doing  something  for  our  souls  and 
acquiring  a  store  of  grace  for  the  battle  which  is  to  come  ?  " 

Father  Doyle  was  much  helped  by  the  Spiritual  Father, 
Pere  Adolphus  Petit,  (author  of  the  well-known  book,  Sacerdos 
rite  instructus),  and  he  thus  describes  him  in  a  letter  : 

"  There  is  a  wonderful  little  old  priest  here,  named 
Fr.  Petit,  small  in  name  and  small  in  size — he  is  about  three 
feet  high.  He  is  eighty-five,  but  as  active  as  a  man  of  thirty, 
being  constantly  away  giving  retreats.  I  have  tried  several 
times  to  get  down  to  the  chapel  at  four  o'clock  in  the  morning 
before  him,  but  he  is  always  there  when  I  come  in.  He  is 
a  dear  saintly  old  man  with  wonderful  faith  and  simplicity 
In  the  middle  of  an  exhortation  in  the  chapel,  he  will  turn 
round  to  the  Tabernacle  and  say  :  '  Is  not  that  true,  my 
Jesus  ?  '  He  is  giving  a  retreat  here  this  moment  to  a 
hundred  and  ten  gentlemen." 

It  is  from  his  tertianship  to  his  death  that  Fr.  Doyle's 
spiritual  notes  are  most  copious.  He  had  evidently 


TERTIANSHIP  33 

destroyed  all  his  earlier  manuscripts.  Even  those  which 
now  survive  were  destined  for  the  flames.  The  writei  left 
strict  instructions  that  all  his  personal  notes  should  be  des 
troyed.  It  is  only  by  disobeying  the  author's  pious  wishes — 
an  act  which,  now  that  he  is  beyond  the  temptations  of 
earth,  he  will  surely  forgive — that  these  self-revelations  have 
been  reverently  rifled,  in  the  hope  that  thus  his  good  work 
for  souls  may  be  prolonged,  and  that  though  dead  he  may 
yet  speak  to  us.  Only  let  us  remember  that  these  intimate 
outpourings  were  written  solely  for  God  and  himself.  We 
are  not  reading  an  autobiography  or  a  journal  intime  written 
for  publication.  We  are  privileged  to  see  the  real  inner 
development  of  a  saint,  a  hero  in  the  making. 

According  to  these  notes  the  tertianship  was  a  landmark 
in  Fr  Doyle's  life.  He  went  apart  into  a  desert  place  to 
commune  with  his  Master  ;  his  sojourn  was  to  him  a  rebirth  ; 
he  emerged  reinvigorated  and  recreated ;  henceforth  to  him 
to  live  was  Christ  and  to  die  was  gain.  It  was  especially 
in  the  Long  Retreat — his  notes  on  which  will  be  presently 
given — that  the  call  to  heroic  perfection  came  to  him  clear 
and  strong,  concentrating  into  its  intensity  all  the  past 
yearnings  of  a  lifetime.  But  indeed  during  the  year  (July 
1907  to  July  1908)  he  had  altogether  fifty-two  days  of 
retreat — eight  days  before  ordination,  thirty  days  in  the  long 
retreat,  two  triduums,  and  eight  days  more  at  the  close  of 
the  tertianship.  In  January,  1908,  he  also  gave  a  retreat 
(his  first)  to  some  fifty  girls  in  a  convent  at  Hamont,  near 
Antwerp  ;  and  during  the  Lent  of  that  year  he  gave  missions 
in  Aberdeen  and  Yarmouth.  Altogether  it  was  for  him  a 
wonderful  year  of  grace  and  fervour. 

This  is  how  he  reviewed  the  year  during  his  retreat  in 
July,  1908  : 

'  I  have  finished  the  tertianship.  Looking  back  on  the 
past  year,  I  see  now  in  how  many  ways  I  could  have  spent 
this  time  more  profitably,  been  more  faithful  to  order  of 
time,  more  exact,  etc.  At  the  same  time  I  thank  God  from 
my  heart  that  this  year  has  been  fruitful  in  grace,  and,  I 
feel,  has  worked  a  wonderful  change  in  me.  I  feel  a  greater 
desire  to  do  all  I  can  to  please  God  and  to  become  holy  ;  a 
greater  attraction  for  prayer,  more  desire  for  mortification 


34  FATHER  WILLIAM   DOYLE,   S.J. 

and  increased  facility  in  performing  acts  of  self-denial.  I 
know  the  work  of  my  sanctification  is  only  begun,  the  hard 
work  and  the  real  work  remains  to  be  done. 

"  This  closing  retreat  of  the  tertianship  has  confirmed 
the  resolution  made  during  the  Long  Retreat  to  refuse  God 
nothing,  to  strive  might  and  main  to  make  up  for  the  past 
wasted  years  of  my  religious  life  by  all  the  fervour  and 
earnestness  I  am  capable  of. 

"  The  desire  to  be  a  saint  has  been  growing  in  my  heart 
all  during  this  year,  especially  the  last  couple  of  months. 
God  has  given  me  this  desire ;  He  will  not  refuse  the  grace, 
if  only  I  am  faithful  in  the  future.  How  good  you  have 
been  to  me,  O  my  God,  waiting  so  patiently  for  me  to  return 
to  You  !  Help  me  now  generously  to  do  all  You  want  me 
to  do.  Amen." 

He  then  recorded  a  solemn  resolution  to  shape  the 
remainder  of  his  life  according  to  two  great  principles  :  (i) 
Vince  teipsum — Age  contra  (Conquer  thyself — Act  against) 
(2)  Communia  non  communiter  (Common  things  uncommonly 
well.)  These  are  indeed  the  leading  ideas  of  that  type  of 
spirituality  which  we  may  call  the  Ignatian,  so  much  has  it 
been  impressed  on  the  Catholic  world  through  the 
instrumentality  of  the  Spiritual  Exercises  of  the  Spanish 
soldier-saint.  He  does  not  seek  to  prescribe  with  mechanical 
precision  the  free  flight  of  the  soul  to  God  or  the  workings 
of  the  gratis-given  graces  of  the  Holy  Spirit.  Rather  does 
he  show  how  "  to  conquer  oneself  and  regulate  one's  life 
and  to  avoid  coming  to  a  determination  through  any 
inordinate  affection."  His  object  is  to  remove  obstacles 
and,  so  to  speak,  to  give  God  a  chance.  This  he  does  by 
leading  men  to  perform  spiritual  exercises,  to  become  soul- 
athletes  and  soldiers  of  Christ,  to  undergo  a  sort  of  drill 
and  discipline.  St.  Ignatius  is  intensely  earnest  and 
practical,  he  applies  conscious  determination  to  every  detail. 
In  his  meditations  such  phrases  as  id  quod  volo,  (what  I 
wish),  and  ut  fructum  aliquem  capiam,  (that  I  may  reap 
some  fruit),  are  typical  of  his  practical  view  of  prayer  as  a 
consciously  designed  means  to  self -conquest.  "  Vincc, 
teipsum,"  wrote  Fr.  Doyle  in  some  notes  of  a  retreat  for 
priests.  "  This  is  the  secret  of  the  Exercises.  '  I  learnt  no 


TERTIANSHIP  35 

other  lesson  from  my  master  Ignatius,'  said  St.  Francis 
Xavier,  referring  to  his  first  retreat  at  Paris.  Here  we  all 
fail — good  men,  zealous  men,  holy  men.  Prayer  is  easy, 
works  of  zeal  attractive  ;  but  going  against  self,  till  grace 
and  perseverance  give  facility,  is  cruel  work,  a  hard  battle." 

St.  Ignatius,  with  the  true  instinct  of  a  general,  wishes  us 
not  merely  to  defend  ourselves  against  sensuality  and 
deordination,  but  to  take  the  offensive  (agere  contra),  if  we 
wish  to  be  distinguished  (insignes)  in  the  service  of  Christ. 
And  once  more  with  soldier-like  precision,  Ignatius  plans 
the  campaign.  He  will  have  no  vague  enthusiasm,  no 
emotional  generalities ;  he  is  always  relentlessly  methodical 
and  detailed.  Vince  teipsum  is  not  enough,  he  also  adopts 
the  policy  of  divide  et  imp  era.1  He  did  not  invent  the 
Particular  Examen,2  which  attacks  sins  or  faults  one  by 
one  or  essays  the  conquest  of  virtues  in  single  file  ;  but 
he  helped  to  make  it  a  widespread  practice  of  the  spiritual 
life.  St.  Ignatius  merely  laid  down  the  general  rule  of 
attempting  one  thing  at  a  time  and  concentrating  one's 
energy  on  an  immedia  e  objective.  It  is  for  each,  under 
proper  guidance,  to  apply  this  maxim  of  spiritual  tactics 
to  his  own  character  and  circumstances.  Intensified  into  a 
process  of  spiritual  statistics — such  as  Fr,  Doyle  adopted 
for  his  aspirations3  — the  Particular  Examen  would  certainly 
be  unsuitable  to  many  souls.  In  all  such  delicate  matters 
of  spiritual  psychology  there  are  no  rigid  general  rules. 

Fr.  Doyle's  second  maxim  "  common  things  not 
commonly  "  is  adopted  from  St.  John  Berchmans,  and  is 
thoroughly  characteristic  of  St.  Ignatius's  realism,  and  what 
may  be  called  his  idea  of  intensive  culture  rather  than  mere 
extension.  "  I  will  strive  ever  to  perform  each  action  as 
perfectly  as  possible,"  continues  Fr.  Doyle,  "  paying  special 
attention  to  small  duties,  e.g.,  saying  grace,  odd  Hail  Marys 
etc.  It  seems  to  me  that  God  is  asking  this  particularly 

I. — Divide  and  conquer. 

2. — On  this  see  also  p.  112.  Even  the  pagan  Sextius  practised  a  daily  exam 
ination  of  conscience  (Seneca,  De  ira  iii.  36,  i).  Cassian  (Collationes  v.  14) 
advocated  the  Particular  Examen.  (The  word  'examen'  is  hardly  English,  but 
it  has  become  so  customary  in  Catholic  devotional  literature  that  it  would  be 
pedantic  to  avoid  it.)  Benjamin  Franklin  (who  presumably  never  read  the 
Spiritual  Exercises)  practised  this  method  and  kept  a  graphical  record  of 
particular  faults. — Autobiography  ch.  6,  ed.  Hutchinson  &  Co.,  1903,  p.  97. 

3.— Seep.  113. 


36  FATHER  WILLIAM   DOYLE,   S.J. 

from  me,  and  by  this  means  I  am  to  find  the  chief  road  to 
sanctity."  In  appearance  this  resolution  of  minute  fidelity 
is  modest  and  easy  ;  but  in  reality  it  constitutes  a  slow 
heroism  of  self-conquest,  a  martyrdom,  whose  pain  is  drawn 
out  into  a  life-long  succession  of  pin-pricks.  Thus^  testified 
P6re  de  la  Colombi6re  who  made  a  similar  resolution  in  his 
tertianship  retreat  :l 

"  It  seems  as  if  it  would  be  easy  to  spend  any  other  kind 
of  life  holily ;  and  the  more  austere,  solitary  and  obscure 
it  might  be  and  separated  from  all  intercourse,  the  more 
pleasing  it  would  appear  to  me  to  be.  As  to  what  usually 
terrifies  nature,  such  as  prisons,  constant  sickness  and  even 
death,  all  this  seems  easy  compared  with  this  everlasting 
war  with  self,  this  vigilance  against  the  attacks  of  the  world 
and  of  self-love,  this  living  death  in  the  midst  of  the  world. 
When  I  think  of  this,  I  foresee  that  life  will  seem  to  be  of 
prodigious  length,  and  that  death  will  never  come  soon 
enough." 

This  grim  earnestness  of  minute  and  painstaking  perfection. 
Ihis  concentration  of  enthusiasm  into  the  narrow  mould  of 
daily  duties  and  rules,  is  characteristic  of  the  Jesuit  type 
of  holiness.  Doubtless,  in  holiness,  as  in  art  or  literature, 
there  are  types,  and  within  those  types  there  is  scope  for 
individuality.  In  our  Father's  house  there  are  many 
mansions,  and  so  too  in  the  Church  Militant  there  are  diverse 
and  even  divergent,  though  not  contradictory,  types  and 
schools  of  sanctity,  coextensive  with  the  myriad  richness  of 
the  human  mind.  The  catalogue  of  the  saints  includes 
King  Louis,  the  Crusader,  as  well  as  Simeon  Stylites,  repeating 
litanies  on  his  pillar,  Joan  of  Arc,  the  warrior-maiden, 
the  mystic  Teresa  of  Jesus,  the  verminous  beggar 
Benedict  Joseph  Labre.  Is  it  not  one  of  the  marks  of  the 
Church  that  within  the  unity  of  the  faith  she  not  only 
tolerates  but  fosters  variety  and  diversity  ?  There  are  many 
religious  orders  each  with  its  own  speciality  and  characteristic, 
many  rites  and  ceremonies,  a  richness  of  liturgy,  a  mu  titude 
of  devotions ;  there  is  room  for  everyone  with  tolerance 
and  charity.  It  has,  however,  been  sometimes  said  that  the 

i. — Lights  in  Prayer  (Quarterly  Series),  p.  140. 


TERTIANSHIP  37 

spirituality  of  St.  Ignatius  is  a  cast-iron  system,  repressive 
of  emotions  and  cramping  individuality.  But  this  is  merely 
a  secondhand  perversion,  a  criticism  based  on  texts  rather 
than  on  living  men.  The  Spiritual  Exercises,  which  have 
been  aptly  termed  a  soldier's  pocket-book,  cannot  be  under 
stood  apart  from  the  living  voice  of  the  master  and  the 
spiritual  experience  of  the  exercitant.  In  his  preliminary 
annotations  St.  Ignatius  instructs  the  director  to  "allow  the 
Creator  to  act  immediately  with  the  creature  and  the  creature 
with  its  Creator  and  Lord  "  ;  and  again,  he  insists  that  the 
exercises  "  ought  to  be  suited  to  the  disposition  of  those 
who  wish  to  make  them."  Within  the  ambit  of  certain 
general  principles,  each  soul  must  pursue  its  own 
individual  path. 

There  is  a  saying  attributed  to  St.  Ignatius  which  ought 
not  to  be  forgotten  :  "  It  is  very  dangerous  to  try  to  force 
all  to  reach  perfection  by  the  same  road  ;  such  a  one  does 
not  understand  how  manifold  are  the  gifts  of  the  Holy 
Spirit."  l  It  is  not  due  to  St.  Ignatius,  but  to  some  of  his 
interpreters,  that  the  flexibility  of  the  Exercises,  for  instance 
in  the  modes  of  meditation  and  prayer,  has  not  always  been 
realised.  Sometimes,  too,  those  who  write  for  the  beginners 
in  the  art  of  prayer  think  it  necessary  to  enter  into  a  rather 
disconcerting  apparatus  of  rules  and  details.  In  the  last 
analysis  these  expedients  are  all  means  to  the  end,  which  is 
converse  with  God.  The  Directory  ol  the  Exercises,  com 
posed  by  order  of  Fr.  Claudius  Aquaviva,  after  explaining 
the  methods  proposed  by  St.  Ignatius,  adds  :2 

"  It  must  not  be  thought  that  thereby  are  excluded  other 
methods  which  the  Holy  Spirit  teaches  and  which  men, 
exercised  in  the  spiritual  life,  adopt  according  to  experience, 
reason  and  sound  doctrine,  or  which  each  one  discovers  by 
practice  to  be  useful  for  his  spiritual  progress.  This  also 
applies  to  Ours,  always  with  the  approval  or  consent  of  the 
superior  or  spiritual  director,  to  whom  each  one  should 
manifest  his  method  of  prayer,  all  the  more  so  if  in  any  way 
it  departs  from  the  ordinary." 

i. — Selectae  S.  Patris  nostri  Ignatii  Sentential  8.     So  also  St.  Francis  Borgia 
— P.  Suau,  Histoire  de  6.  F.  de  Borgia^  p.  393. 
2. — Directoriuin  37.  13. 


38  FATHER  WILLIAM   DOYLE,   SJ. 

Such  reasonable  liberty  is  perfectly  compatible  with  the 
general  utility  of  certain  helps,  expedients,  and  devices  for 
helping  weak  human  nature  in  the  spiritual  combat.  We 
must  neither  slavishly  imitate  each  practice  or  particularity 
of  every  or  any  saint ;  nor  yet  must  we  be  so  deluded  with 
a  sense  of  our  own  self-sufficiency,  as  to  reject  'summarily 
those  methods  and  practices  which  have  been  adopted  and 
recommended  by  many  masters  of  the  spiritual  life. 

These  considerations  will  not  be  irrelevant  when  we  come 
to  read  Fr.  Doyle's  diary  and  retreat-notes.  As  we  begin 
with  his  Long  Retreat,  it  may  be  useful  to  add  here  by  way 
of  preface  a  few  general  ideas  about  the  scope  of  the  Exercises. 
According  to  St.  Ignatius,  "  the  name  of  spiritual  exercises 
is  applied  to  any  method  of  preparing  and  disposing  the 
soul  to  free  itself  from  all  inordinate  affections,  and  after 
it  has  freed  itself  from  them,  to  seek  and  find  the  will  of 
God  concerning  the  ordering  of  life  for  the  salvation  of  one's 
soul."1  Thus  a  retreat  is  designed  for  earnest  souls — only 
in  a  very  attenuated  form  can  the  Exercises  be  adapted  to 
a  mission  for  sinners ;  and  it  has  a  definite  object — to  find 
God's  will.  At  the  beginning  St.  Ignatius  lays  down  the 
"  first  principle  and  foundation  "  which  must  be  admitted 
at  the  outset.  It  is  the  basis  of  all  valuation  of  life  :  Man 
was  made  for  God,  all  other  things  for  man  to  bring  him 
to  God.  Thus  the  exercitant  accepts  in  advance  and  in 
general  the  practical  consequences  which  logically  follow 
from  this  acceptance  of  the  Creator's  sovereign  rights.  Then 
for  a  whole  week  he  must  seek  to  eliminate  all  sin  and  disorder 
and  to  examine  his  soul.  In  the  second  week  the  exercitant 
is  brought  face  to  face  with  Jesus  Christ.  Will  he  follow 
the  invitation  and  enlist  in  the  King's  service  ?  He  must 
count  up  the  cost,  he  must  study  Christ's  standard,  he  must 
at  least  aspire  to  the  highest  and  noblest  service.  Then 
comes  the  great  choice,  which  St.  Ignatius  calls  "  the 
election,"  and  which  is  the  culminating  point  of  the  Exercises. 


i. — Annotations,  §  i.  Reference  will  in  future  be  made  to  the  convenient 
English  translation  of  The  Text  of  the  Spiritual  Exercises  of  St.  Ignatius, 
London,  Burns  &  Gates,  1913  * .  See  also  The  Spiritual  Exercises  of  St.  Ignatius 
Loyola^  Spanish  and  English  -with  a  continuous  Commentary,  by  Joseph 
Rickaby,  S.J.,  1915. 


TERTIANSHIP  39 

In  ordinary  retreats,  of  course,  there  is  no  great  decisive 
choice  to  be  made,1  but  there  is  always  some  "  reformation 
of  life,"  some  re-ordering  of  one's  life  in  the  light  of  the 
great  spiritual  truths  and  scenes  which  have  been  marshalled 
before  the  soul.  God's  will  is  known  and  accepted.  One 
more  week  is  spent  in  meditating  on  the  Passion,  and  a 
fourth  and  last  is  devoted  to  the  contemplation  of  the  Risen 
Master,  in  order  to  habituate  the  soul  to  pure  love  and  to 
strengthen  the  resolutions  taken.  Such,  in  brief  essentials, 
are  the  Exercises  through  which  in  their  entirety  each  Jesuit 
passes  twice  in  his  life,  once  as  a  novice  at  the  outset  of  his 
spiritual  life,  and  finally  as  a  priest  at  the  outset  of  his 
ministry.  The  following  chapter  contains  the  diary  which 
for  his  own  guidance  Fr.  Doyle  kept  during  his  second  and 
last  Long  Retreat. 


i. — In  his  Long-  Retreat  Fr.   Doyle  made  his  election  to  volunteer  for  the 
foreign  mission.     See  p.  53. 


40  FATHER  WILLIAM   DOYLE,   S.J. 

CHAPTER   IV. 
DIARY   OF   LONG   RETREAT1 

Tronchiennes,  loth  October,  1907. 

I  BEGIN  the  Long  Retreat  this  evening  with  very  varied 
feelings.  I  feel  a  great  desire  and  determination  to 
make  this  retreat  as  I  have  never  made  one  before, 
for  I  know  this  is  the  turning  point  in  my  life — I  can  never 
be  the  same  again.  I  want  to  be  generous  with  God  and 
to  refuse  Him  nothing.  I  do  not  want  to  say,  "  I  will  go 
just  so  far  and  no  farther ."  Hence  I  feel  my  cowardly  and 
weak  nature  dreading  this  retreat,  for  I  feel  our  Lord  is 
going  to  ask  some  big  sacrifice  from  me,  that  He  expects 
much  from  me.  He  has  been  tugging  at  my  heart  for  so 
many  years,  urging  me  in  so  many  ways  to  give  myself 
wholly  to  Him,  to  give  all  and  refuse  Him  nothing.  I  dread 
lest  now  I  shall  again  refuse  Him — perhaps  it  is  the  last 
time  He  will  ask  me  to  do  what  He  wants.  My  loving  Jesus, 
I  will,  I  will  be  generous  with  You  now  at  last.  But  You 
must  aid  me,  it  must  be  Your  work,  I  am  so  cowardly.  Make 
me  see  clearly  Your  holy  will.  Domine,  quid  me  vis  facere  ?2 

[THE     FOUNDATION3.] 

God  had  some  special  end  in  creating  me,  some  particular 
part  in  His  great  plan.  I  was  not  created  as  it  were  one 
of  a  great  number  who  came  into  the  world  on  the  same 
day  ;  but  God  had  a  particular  object  in  giving  me  life.  Why 
did  He  create  me  ? 

How  miserable  has  been  my  service  of  God  since  I  entered 

i. — The  retreat-journal  is  reproduced  just  as  it  stands.  A  few  heading^  (in 
square  brackets]  have  been  inserted  and  some  explanatory  footnotes  added. 
Reference  should,  of  course,  be  made  throughout  to  the  text  of  the  Spiritual 
Exercises. 

2. — Lord,  what  wilt  Thou  have  me  to  do? — Ads,  9,  6. 

3. — St.  Ignatius  calls  this  preliminary  consideration  on  the  end  of  man  "the 
principle  and  foundation"  (principium  et  fundamentum  j. 


LONG   RETREAT  41 

religion  !  A  bit  fervent  one  day,  the  next  dissipated  and 
careless,  even  since  my  ordination.  I  have  fallen  away 
from  the  fervent  way  in  which  I  had  resolved  to  live  hence 
forth.  I  feel  inclined  to  despond  ;  but  with  God's  help 
I  will  go  on,  trying  now  at  last  to  make  some  little  progress 
in  serving  Him  worthily.  My  true  service  of  God  consists 
in  performing  the  ordinary  actions  of  the  day  as  perfectly 
and  as  fervently  as  I  can,  with  a  pure  intention  for  love  of 
my  Jesus.  It  is  a  mistake  to  think  that  I  can  only  serve 
Him  by  preaching,  saving  souls,  etc.  What  would  have 
become  of  me  if  I  had  treated  an  earthly  master  as  I  have 
served  God  ? 

To  be  indifferent  does  not  mean  to  desire  things  which 
are  hard  to  nature,  but  a  readiness  and  determination  to 
embrace  them  when  once  the  will  of  God  is  known.  In 
this  sense  I  think  I  am  indifferent  about  going  to  the  Congo. 
But  I  must  force  myself  to  be  willing  to  accept  the  way  of 
life  which  God  seems  to  be  leading  me  to  and  wants  me  to 
adopt.  My  God,  I  dread  it — but  "  not  my  will  but  Thine." 

God  has  a  perfect  right  to  ask  from  me  what  He  wills  ; 
I  am  His  servant.  How  then  can  I  be  free  to  do  or  not 
whatever  He  may  ask  ? 

I  close  the  Fundamentum  with  feelings  of  humility  and 
sorrow  at  the  thought  of  my  past  service  of  God.  How 
little  reverence  !  Thank  God,  I  have  still  time  to  make  up 
for  it.  One  thing  alone  can  repair  the  lost  years — a  life 
of  great  fervour. 


FIRST     WEEK. 

[SIN.] 

I  can  say  with  all  truth  that  only  for  the  great  mercy 
of  God  I  should  now  have  been  in  hell.  I  deserved  it  for  my 
years  of  tepidity  in  Clongowes.  Never  did  the  good  God 
show  His  goodness  to  me  more  than  in  saving  me  from 
grievous  sin.  I  have  here  a  second  motive  of  gratitude  to 
urge  me  to  do  all  He  wants. 

The  meditation  on  the  barren  fig-tree  (5.  Luke  13.)  recalled 


42  FATHER  WILLIAM   DOYLE,  SJ. 

to  my  mind  this  gospel  which  I  read  in  the  Mass  at  Paray- 
e-Monial.  For  sixteen  years  has  Jesus  been  seeking  fruit 
from  my  soul,  and  especially  in  these  last  three  years  of 
preparation  for  the  priesthood.  I  have  no  excuse  for  He 
has  told  me  how  to  produce  that  fruit,  especially  by  the 
exact  discharge  of  each  little  duty  of  the  moment.  "  Spare 
it  for  this  year,"  Never  shall  I  have  this  opportunity  again 
of  becoming  holy ;  and  if  now  I  do  not  "  dig  round  "  this 
unfruitful  tree  so  that  it  bear  much  fruit,  Jesus  will  surely 
"  cut  it  down "  by  withdrawing  His  graces  and  loving 
invitations. 

Truly  I  have  ever  been  in  the  community  "  a  running 
sore  "  of  harm  and  evil  example.  My  Jesus,  can  I  ever 
make  amends  for  all  the  harm  I  have  done  ?  Help  me 
from  this  instant  to  try  and  do  so  by  my  fervent  earnest 
life.  Help  me  to  become  thoroughly  changed  and  to  do 
all  You  want  of  me. 

This  thought  came  to  me.  If  Jesus  wants  me  to  go  to 
the  Congo,  I  shall  do  more  for  souls  there  than  by  remaining 
at  home.  Besides,  my  sacrifice  will  obtain  grace  for  others 
to  do  more  good  than  I  ever  could. 

"  Because  you  have  sinned,  cursed  be  the  earth  in  your 
work."  (Genesis  3.  17.)  I  see  here  the  reason  why  my  work 
for  souls  must  be  unfruitful  God  will  never  bless  it  while 
I  have  an  affection  for  sin  or  lead  a  careless  life. 


[HELL.] 

I  can  imagine  I  am  a  soul  in  hell,  and  God  in  His  mercy 
is  saying  to  me,  "  Return  to  the  world  for  this  year  and 
on  your  manner  of  life  during  the  year  will  depend  your 
returning  to  hell  or  not."  What  a  life  I  should  lead  !  How 
little  I  should  think  of  suffering,  of  mortification  !  How  I 
would  rejoice  in  suffering  !  How  perfectly  each  moment 
would  be  spent  !  If  God  treated  me  as  I  deserved,  I  should 
be  in  hell  now.  Shall  I  ever  again  have  cause  for  grumbling 
or  complaining,  no  matter  what  may  happen  ?  My  habit 
of  constantly  speaking  uncharitably  of  others,  and,  in  general, 
faults  of  the  tongue,  seem  to  me  the  chief  reason  why  I 


LONG   RETREAT  43 

derive  so  little  fruit  from  my  Mass  and  spiritual  duties. 
Nothing  dries  up  the  fountains  of  grace  so  much  as  an 
affection  for  sin 

[DEATH.] 

Death  is  the  end  of  all  things  here,  the  end  of  time,  of 
merit,  of  pain  and  mortification,  of  a  hard  life.  It  is  the 
commencement  of  an  eternal  life  of  happiness  and  joy.  "  God 
will  wipe  away  all  tears  from  their  eyes."  (Apoc.  21,  4.)  In 
this  light,  life  is  short  indeed  and  penance  sweet.  I  thought 
if  I  knew  I  had  only  one  year  to  live,  how  fervently  I  would 
spend  it,  how  each  moment  would  be  utilised.  Yet  I  know 
well  I  may  not  live  a  week  more — do  I  really  believe  this  ? 


[JUDGEMENT.] 

Oct.  i6th.  Meditating  on  the  Particular  Judgement,  God 
gave  me  great  light.  I  realised  that  I  should  have  to  give 
an  exact  account  of  every  action  of  my  life  and  for  every 
instant  of  time.  To  take  only  my  seventeen  years  of  religious 
life,  what  account  could  I  give  of  the  6,000  hours  of 
meditation,  7,000  Masses,  12,000  examinations  of  conscience, 
etc.  ?  Then  my  time — how  have  I  spent  every  moment  ? 
I  resolved  not  to  let  a  day  more  pass  without  seriously  trying 
to  reform  my  life  in  the  manner  in  which  I  perform  my 
ordinary  daily  duties.  For  years  I  have  been  "  going  to 
begin,"  and  from  time  to  time  made  some  slight  efforts  at 
improvement.  But  now,  dear  Jesus,  let  this  change  be  the 
work  of  Thy  right  hand. 

To  perform  each  action  well  I  will  try  and  do  them  :  (a) 
with  a  pure  intention  often  renewed,  (b)  attente — earnestly, 
punctually  exactly,  (c)  devote — with  great  fervour. 

How  little  I  think  of  committing  venial  sin,  and  how 
soon  I  forget  I  have  done  so  !  Yet  God  hates  nothing  more 
than  even  the  shadow  of  sin,  nothing  does  more  harm  to 
my  spiritual  progress  and  hinders  any  real  advance  in 
holiness.  My  God,  give  me  an  intense  hatred  and  dread 
and  horror  of  the  smallest  sin.  I  want  to  please  You  and 


44  FATHER  WILLIAM   DOYLE,   SJ. 

love  You  and  serve  You  as  I  have  never  done  before.     Let 
me  begin  by  stamping  out  all  sin  in  my  soul. 

We  could  not  take  pleasure  in  living  in  the  company  of 
one  whose  body  is  one  running,  festering  sore ;  neither  can 
God  draw  us  close  to  Himself,  caress  and  love  us,  if  our  souls 
are  covered  with  venial  sin,  more  loathsome  and  horrible 
in  His  eyes  than  the  most  foul  disease.  To  avoid  mortal 
sin  I  must  carefully  guard  against  deliberate  venial  sin,  so 
to  avoid  venial  sin  I  must  fly  from  the  shadow  of  imperfection 
in  my  actions.  How  often  in  the  past  have  I  done  things 
when  I  did  not  know  if  they  were  sins  or  only  deliberate 
imperfections — and  how  little  I  cared,  my  God  ! 


[THE  PRODIGAL   SON1.] 

One  of  the  obstacles  to  my  leading  a  fervent  life  is  the 
thought  of  what  others  may  think.  I  would  often  wish  to 
do  some  act  of  mortification,  but  I  am  prevented  because 
I  know  others  will  see  it.  Again,  I  desire  to  keep  certain 
rules  which  I  have  often  broken  (e.g.  Latin  conversation), 
but  a  false  shame,  a  fear  of  what  others  may  say,  stops  me.- 
I  know  this  is  a  foolish,  mean  and  small  spirit ;  but  it  is 
alas  !  too  true  in  my  case.  I  must  pray  to  overcome  it 
and  make  some  generous  acts  against  this  false  shame 
and  pride. 

For  fifteen  years  has  Jesus  been  waiting  for  me  to  return 
to  Him,  to  return  to  the  fervour  of  my  first  year  of  religious 
life.  During  that  time  how  many  pressing  and  loving 
invitations  has  He  not  given  me  ?  What  lights  and 
inspirations,  remorse  of  conscience,  and  how  many  good 
resolves  which  were  never  carried  into  effect.  O  my  God, 
I  feel  now  as  if  I  cannot  resist  You  longer.  Your  infinite 
patience  and  desire  to  bring  me  to  You  has  broken  the  ice 
of  my  cold  heart  "  I  will  arise  and  go  "  to  You,  humbled 
and  sorrowful,  and  for  the  rest  of  my  life  give  You  of  my 
very  best.  Help  me,  sweet  Jesus,  by  Your  grace,  for  I  am 
weak  and  cowardly. 

i. — A  meditation  on  God's  mercy  is  usually  added  at  the  end  of  the  First 
Week  of  the  Exercises. 

2. — "  Let  all   .     .     .    speak  Latin."  (Rules  uf  Scholastics,   10.) 


LONG   RETREAT  45 


FRUIT    OF    FIRST    WEEK. 

I  realise  in  a  way  I  never  did  before  that  God  created 
me  for  His  service,  that  He  has  a  strict  right  that  I  should 
serve  Him  perfectly,  and  that  every  moment  of  my  life  is 
His  and  given  to  me  for  the  one  end  of  praising  and  serving 
Him.  I  recalled  with  horror  how  often  I  have  wandered 
from  this  my  end,  what  an  appalling  amount  of  time  I  have 
wasted,  and  how  few  of  my  actions  were  done  for  God,  or 
worthy  of  being  offered  to  Him.  I  see  what  I  should  have 
been  and  what  I  am.  But  the  thought  of  Jesus  waiting 
and  eagerly  looking  out  for  me,  the  prodigal,  during  fifteen 
years,  has  filled  me  with  hope  and  confidence  and  hew  resolve 
to  turn  to  my  dearest  Jesus  and  give  Him  all  He  asks. 

I  have  begun  to  try  to  perform  each  little  action  with 
great  fervour  and  exactness,  having  as  my  aim  to  get  back 
the  fervour  of  my  first  year's  novitiate. 

Domine,  quid  me  vis  facer e  P1  I  am  ready  to  do  Your 
will,  no  matter  how  hard  it  may  seem  to  me. 

17  October,  1907.  Amen. 


SECOND      WEEK. 

18  Oct.,  1907. 

[ON     THE     KINGDOM     OF     CHRIST.] 

I  seemed  at  prayer  to  hear  Jesus  asking  me  if  I  were  willing 
to  do  all  He  would  ask  of  me.  I  feel  much  less  fear  than  in 
the  first  week,  of  what  this  may  be,  and  greater  courage  and 
desire  even  for  sacrifices. 

This  thought  came  to  me  :  I  am  not  to  take  the  lives  of 
others  in  the  house  as  the  standard  of  my  own,  what  may 
be  lawful  for  them  is  not  for  me  ;  their  life  is  most  pleasing 
to  God,  such  a  life  for  me  would  not  be  so  ;  God  wants  some 
thing  higher,  nobler,  more  generous  from  me,  and  for  this 
will  offer  me  special  graces. 

i. — Lord,  what  wilt  Thou  have  me  to  do? — Acts  9,  6. 


46  FATHER  WILLIAM   DOYLE,   S.J. 

Meditating  on  the  Kingdom  of  Christ,  the  thought  suddenly 
came  to  me  to  make  this  offering  :  0  aeterne  Domine  .  .  . 
dummodo  sit  maius  servitium  Tuum  et  laus  Tua  .  .  .  et 
si  Maiestas  Tua  sanctissima  voluerit  me  eligere  ac  recipere  ad 
talem  vitam  et  statum,  me  Tibi  offero  pro  Missione  Congolensi. 
Fiat  voluntas  Tua.  Amen  x 

I  feel  that  I  could  go  through  fire  and  water  to  serve  such 
a  man  as  Napoleon,  that  no  sacrifice  he  could  ask  would  be 
too  hard.  What  would  the  army  think  of  me  if  Napoleon 
said,  "  I  want  you  to  do  so  and  so,"  and  I  replied,  "  But, 
your  Majesty,  I  am  very  sensitive  to  cold,  I  want  to  have 
a  sleep  in  the  afternoon,  to  rest  when  I  am  tired,  and  I  really 
could  not  do  without  plenty  of  good  things  to  eat  !  " — 
would  I  not  deserve  to  have  my  uniform  torn  from  me  and 
be  driven  from  the  army,  not  even  allowed  to  serve  in  the 
ranks  ?  How  do  I  serve  Jesus  my  King  ?  What  kind  of 
service  ?  generous  or  making  conditions  ?  in  easy  things 
but  not  in  hard  ones  ?  What  have  I  done  for  Jesus  ?  What 
am  I  doing  for  Jesus  ?  What  shall  I  do  for  Jesus  ? 


[THE    NATIVITY.] 

What  impressed  me  most  in  the  meditiation  on  the  Nativity 
was  the  thought  that  Jesus  could  have  been  born  in  wealth 
and  luxury,  or  at  least  with  the  ordinary  comforts  of  life, 
,  but  He  chose  all  that  was  hard,  unpleasant  and  uncomfortable. 
This  He  did  for  me,  to  show  me  the  life  I  must  lead 
jor  Him.  If  I  want  to  be  with  Christ,  I  must  lead  the  life 
of  Christ,  and  in  that  life  there  was  little  of  what  was  pleasing 
to  nature.  I  think  I  have  been  following  Christ,  yet  how 
pleasant  and  comfortable  my  life  has  always  been — ever 
avoiding  cold,  hunger,  hard  work,  disagreeable  things, 
humiliations,  etc.  My  Jesus,  You  are  speaking  to  my  heart 
now.  I  cannot  mistake  Your  voice  or  hide  from  myself 
what  You  want  from  me  and  what  my  future  life  should 
be.  Help  me  for  I  am  weak  and  cowardly. 

i. — "O  eternal  Lord  .  .  .  provided  it  be  for  Thy  greater  service  and 
praise  .  .  .  and  if  Thy  most  Holy  Majesty  be  pleased  to  choose  and  receive 
me  for  such  a  life  and  state,"  (these  words  are  taken  from  St.  Ignatius's 
meditation  on  the  Kingdom  of  Christ),  I  offer  myself  to  Thee  for  the  Congo 
Mission.  Thy  will  be  done.  Amen. 


LONG    RETREAT  47 

By  entering  religion  and  taking  my  vows  I  have  given 
myself  over  absolutely  to  God  and  His  service.  He,  there 
fore,  has  a  right  to  be  served  in  the  way  He  wishes.  If  then 
He  asks  me  to  enter  on  a  hard,  mortified  life  and  spend 
myself  working  for  Him,  how  can  I  resist  His  will  and  desire  ? 
"  Oh  my  God,  make  me  a  saint,  and  I  consent  to  suffer  all 
You  ask  for  the  rest  of  my  life."  What  is  God  asking  from 
me  now  ?  Shall  I  go  back  on  that  offering  ? 


[THE  FLIGHT  INTO  EGYPT.] 

Great  as  was  the  poverty  of  Jesus  in  the  cave  at  Bethlehem, 
it  was  nothing  compared  to  His  destitution  during  the  Flight 
into  Egypt.  Again  this  was  voluntary  and  chosen  and 
borne  propter  me1. 

I  contrast  the  obedience  of  St.  Joseph  with  my  obedience. 
His  so  prompt,  unquestioning,  uncomplaining,  perfect ;  mine 
given  so  grudgingly,  perhaps  exterior,  but  not  interior  con 
formity  with  the  will  of  the  Superior.  I  realise  my  faults 
in  this  matter,  and  for  the  future  will  try  to  practise  the  most 
perfect  obedience,  even  and  especially  in  little  things.  "  The 
obedient  man  will  speak  of  victory."  (Proverbs  21,  28.) 


[THE    HIDDEN    LIFE.] 

During  the  reflection  on  the  Hidden  Life  I  got  a  light 
that  here  was  something  in  which  I  could  easily  imitate 
our  Lord  and  make  my  life  resemble  His.  I  felt  a  strong 
impulse  to  resolve  to  take  up  as  one  of  the  chief  objects  of 
my  life  the  exact  and  thorough  performance  of  each  duty, 
trying  to  do  it  as  Jesus  would  have  done,  with  the  same 
pure  intention,  exquisite  exactness  and  fervour.  To  copy  in 
all  my  actions — walking,  eating,  praying — Jesus,  my  model 
in  the  little  house  of  Nazareth.  This  light  was  sudden,  clear 
and  strong.  To  do  this  perfectly  will  require  constant, 
unflagging  fervour.  Will  not  this  be  part  of  my  "  hard 
life  "  ?  ^___ 

i. — For  my  sake. 


48  FATHER   WILLIAM   DOYLE,   S.J. 

I  should  examine  all  my  actions,  taking  Jesus  as  my  model 
and  example.  What  a  vast  difference  between  my  prayer 
and  His  ;  between  my  use  of  time,  my  way  of  speaking, 
walking,  dealing  with  others,  etc.,  and  that  of  the  child 
Jesus  !  If  I  could  only  keep  Him  before  my  eyes  always, 
my  life  would  be  far  different  from  what  it  has  been. 

Each  fresh  meditation  on  the  life  of  our  Lord  impresses 
on  me  more  and  more  the  necessity  of  conforming  my  life 
to  His  in  every  detail,  if  I  wish  to  please  Him  and  become 
holy.  To  do  something  great  and  heroic  may  never  come, 
but  I  can  make  my  life  heroic  by  faithfully  and  daily  putting 
my  best  effort  into  each  duty  as  it  comes  round.  It  seems 
to  me  I  have  failed  to  keep  my  resolutions  because  I  have 
not  acted  from  the  motive  of  the  love  of  God.  Mortification, 
prayer,  hard  work,  become  sweet  when  done  for  the  love 
of  Jesus. 

[THE  TWO  STANDARDS.] 

My  victory  over  myself,  my  inclinations,  is  a  victory  won 
for  the  cause  of  Jesus.  I  have  been  a  deserter  to  the  camp 
of  Satan,  a  traitor  ;  but  now  my  King  has  pardoned  me 
and  received  me  back.  How  am  I  going  to  show  my  gratitude 
and  make  up  for  the  past  which  I  cannot  recall — the  time 
lost,  duties  omitted  or  done  without  love  or  fervour,  little 
sacrifices  refused,  my  many,  many  sins  ?  Shall  I  not  be 
busy  at  every  hour,  fighting  for  my  King,  gaining  victory 
after  victory  over  the  enemy,  over  myself  ?  My  Jesus,  help 
me  now  to  work  for  You,  to  slave  for  You,  to  fight  for  You. 
and  then  to  die  for  You  ! 


[THE  THREE  CLASSES  OF  MEN.] 

It  is  easy  for  me  to  test  my  love  for  Jesus.  Do  I  love 
what  He  loved  and  came  down  from  heaven  to  find — suffering, 
humiliation,  contempt,  want  of  all  things,  inconveniences, 
hunger,  weariness,  cold  ?  The  more  I  seek  for  and  embrace 
these  things,  the  nearer  am  I  drawing  to  Jesus  and  the  deeper 
is  my  love  for  Him.  While  praying  for  light  to  know  what 


LONG   RETREAT  49 

God  wants  from  me  in  the  matter  of  mortifying  my  appetite, 
a  voice  seemed  to  say :  "  There  are  other  things  besides 
food  in  which  you  can  be  generous  with  Me,  other  hard  things 
which  I  want  you  to  do."  I  thought  of  all  the  secret  self 
denial  contained  in  constant  hard  work,  not  giving  up  when 
a  bit  tired,  not  yielding  to  desire  for  sleep,  not  running  off 
to  bed  if  a  bit  unwell,  bearing  little  sufferings  without  relief, 
cold  and  heat  without  complaint,  and,  above  all,  the  constant 
never-ending  mortification  to  do  each  action  perfectly.  This 
light  has  given  me  a  good  deal  of  consolation,  for  I  see  I 
can  do  much  for  Jesus  that  is  hard  without  being  singular' 
or  departing  from  common  life. 

It  seems  to  me  that  Jesus  is  asking  from  me  a  life  in  which 
I  am  to  make  war  upon  "  comfortableness  "  as  far  as  possible, 
a  life  without  comfort,  even  that  which  is  allowed  by 
the  rule. 

The  example  of  men  of  the  Third  Class  in  the  world  should 
shame  me.  What  determination,  what  prolonged  effort, 
what  deadly  earnestness,  in  the  man  who  has  determined 
to  succeed  in  his  profession  !  No  sacrifice  is  too  great  for 
him,  he  wants  to  succeed,  he  will  succeed.  My  desire,  so 
far,  to  be  a  saint  is  only  the  desire  of  the  man  of  the  First 
Class.  It  gratifies  my  pride,  but  I  make  no  real  progress 
in  perfection — I  do  not  really  will  it. 

The  love  of  Jesus  makes  the  impossible  easy  and  sweet. 


[THE  THREE   DEGREES  OF  HUMILITY.] 

I  have  now  reached  the  great  meditation,  the  crucial  point , 
of  the  retreat.     God  has  been  very  good  to  me  in  enlightening 
my  mind  to  see  His  will  and  in  filling  my  heart  with  a  most 
ardent  desire  to  do  it — cost  what  it  may.     Jesus,  dear  Jesus, 
I  want  to  please  You,  to  do  exactly  what  You  want  of  me, 
to  give  all  generously  this  time  without  any  reserve,  and 
never  to  go  back  on  my  resolution.     In  this  spirit  I  made 
the   midnight   meditation   on   October   25th,   the   Feast   of 
B.  Margaret  Mary.     I  saw  clearly  what  I  knew  years  ago 
but  would  not   admit :   that  God  is  asking  from  me  the 


50  FATHER  WILLIAM   DOYLE,   SJ. 

practice  of  the  Third  Degree1  in  all  its  perfection  as  far  as 
I  am  capable.  I  cannot  deny  it  or  shut  my  eyes  to  this 
truth  any  longer.  Should  I  not  be  grateful  to  the  good 
God  for  choosing  me  for  such  a  life,  since  it  will  be  all  the 
work  of  His  grace  and  not  my  own  doing  ?  God  wants 
me  to  put  perfection — sanctity — before  me  and  to  "go 
straight  "  for  that,  for  holiness.  He  wants  me  not  to  be 
content  with  the  ordinary  good  life  of  the  average  religious, 
but  to  aim  at  something  higher,  nobler,  more  worthy  of 
Him.  He  wants  me  to  make  ceaseless  war  on  myself,  my 
passions,  inclinations,  habits ;  to  smash  and  break  down 
my  own  will,  to  mortify  it  in  all  things  so  that  it  may  be 
free  for  His  grace  to  act  upon ;  in  a  word,  to  aim  at  the 
perfection  of  the  Third  Degree  and  all  that  that  means,  not 
for  one  day  or  month  or  a  year,  but  for  the  rest  of  my  life, 
faithfully,  unceasingly,  constantly,  without  rest  or  inter 
mission.  To  do  this  I  must  strive  to  cut  away  all  comfort 
in  my  life,  choose  that  which  is  "  hard,"  go  against  my 
natural  inclination,  and  give  up  the  easy  self-indulgent  life 
I  have  hitherto  led.  The  motive  for  this  is  the  immense, 
deep,  real  love  of  the  Heart  of  Jesus  for  me,  His  example 
which  He  wants  me  to  follow,  for  He  chose  want  of  all  things, 
suffering  and  a  hard  comfortless  life,  and  by  doing  the  same 
I  imitate  Him  and  become  more  and  more  like  to  Him.  Can 
I  do  this  for  five,  ten,  twenty  years — lead  a  crucified  life 
so  long  ?  Jesus  does  not  ask  that,  but  only  that  I  do  so 
for  this  day  so  quickly  passed  and  with  it  the  recollection 
of  the  little  suffering  and  mortifications  endured — once  over, 
all  is  over,  but  the  eternal  reward  remains. 

My  Jesus,  I  feel  that  at  last  You  have  conquered,  Your 
love  has  conquered  ;  and  last  night,  kneeling  before  the 
image  of  Your  Sacred  Heart,  I  promised  You  to  begin  this 
new  life,  to  begin  at  last  to  serve  You  as  You  urged  me  to 
do  during  the  past  sixteen  years.  I  made  my  promise, 
knowing  well  my  weakness,  but  trusting  in  Your  all-powerful 
grace  to  do  what  seems  almost  impossible  to  my  cowardly 


i. — "  The  third  degree  is  the  most  perfect  humility  ;  when.  .  .  the  better 
to  imitate  Christ  our  Lord  and  to  become  actually  more  like  to  Him,  I  desire 
and  choose  poverty  with  Christ  poor  rather  than  riches,  contempt  with  Christ 
contemned  rather  than  honours.  .  .  .  " — Spiritual  Exercises,  p.  53. 


LONG   RETREAT  51 

nature.  Ego  dixi :  nunc  coepi.1  I  promise  You,  sweet 
Jesus,  to  serve  You  perfectly  with  all  the  fervour  of  my 
soul,  aiming  at  the  Third  Degree  in  its  perfection.  I  make 
this  offering  through  the  hands  of  B.  Margaret  Mary. 
Amen. 

Tronchiennes,  Oct.  25th,  1907. 
Feast  of  B.  Margaret  Mary. 

What  account  shall  I  give  of  this  resolution  when  I  stand 
before  my  God  for  judgement  ? 


PRACTICE    OF    THE    THIRD    DEGREE. 

I.  Accepto.     I  will  receive  with  joy  all  unpleasant  things 
which  I  must  bear :    (a)  pain,  sickness,  heat,  cold,  food  ; 
(b)  house,  employment,  rules,  customs ;    (c)  trials  of  religious 
h'fe,  companions  ;   (d)  reprimands,  humiliations  ;   (e)  anything 
which  is  a  cross. 

II.  Volo  et  Desidero.     I  will  wish  and  desire  that  these 
things  may  happen  to  me,  that  so  I  may  resemble  my  Jesus 
more. 

III.  Eligo.     With  all  my  might  I  will  strive  every  day 
agerc  contra  in  omnibus  :2    (a)  against  my  faults  ;    (b)  against 
my  own  will ;    (c)  against  my  ease  and  comfort ;    (d)  against 
the  desires  of  the  body  ;   (e)  against  my  habit  and  inclination 
of  performing  my  duties  negligently  and  without  fervour. 

Finis 

The  reformation  of  one's  life  must  be  the  work  of  every 
day,  I  should  take  each  rule  and  duty,  think  how  Jesus 
acted,  or  would  have  done,  and  contrast  my  conduct 
with  His. 

I  think  it  better  not  to  make  any  definite  resolutions  about 
mortification,  such  as  "  I  will  never  do  so-and-so."  I  know 
how  such  resolutions  have  fared  But  I  am  determined  to 
keep  up  a  constant  war  against  myself,  now  in  one  matter 

i. — I  said  :    Now  have  I  begun. — Psalm  76,  n. 
2. — To  act  against  (myself)  in  all  things. 


52  FATHER  WILLIAM   DOYLE,   S.J. 

and  now  in  another,  varying  the  kinds  of  mortification  as 
much  as  possible,  but  trying  to  do  ten  little  acts  each  day. 

We  have  a  strict  right  to  the  love  of  God,  because  our 
vocation  is  to  follow  Him ;  we  cannot  do  this  unless  we 
love  Him.  Jesus  will  assuredly  give  me  a  sensible  love  of 
Him,  if  I  only  ask.  I  must  ask,  seek,  and  knock  daily 
and  hourly. 

Fr.  Petit  told  me  that  the  spirit  of  the  Third  Degree  is 
not  so  much  the  practice  of  austerities  as  the  denial  of  one's 
will  and  judgement  and  perfect  abnegation  of  self  and 
humility.  This  is  the  spirit  of  our  rules  which  are  simply 
the  Third  Degree. 

Have  I  a  real  hunger  and  thirst  for  the  love  and  the  service 
of  Jesus  ?  Is  it  growing  ? 

If  I  do  not  begin  to  serve  God  as  I  ought  now,  when  shall 
I  do  so  ?  shall  I  ever  ?  This  retreat  is  a  time  of  special 
grace,  and  if  my  cooperation  is  wanting,  Jesus  may  pass 
by  and  not  return.  The  devil  has  made  me  put  off  my 
thorough  conversion  to  God  for  seventeen  years,  making 
me  content  myself  with  the  resolution  of  "  later  on  really 
beginning  in  earnest  and  becoming  a  saint."  What  might 
not  have  been  done  in  that  time  ! 

The  reason,  said  Fr  Petit,  why  we  find  our  life  so  hard, 
mortification  difficult,  and  why  we  are  inclined  to  avoid 
all  that  we  dislike,  is  because  we  have  no  real  love  for  Jesus. 

The  Gospel  says,  Erat  autem  diebus  jlocens  in  Templo.1 
How  often,  and  for  how  long,  am  I  in  the  chapel  ?  Is  the 
chapel  the  place  where  people  know  I  am  to  be  found  ? 
What  a  difference  it  would  make  in  my  visits,  if  only  I 
realised  the  real  corporal  presence  of  Jesus  in  the  Tabernacle. 
This  is  a  grace  I  must  earnesly  ask  for. 

Erat  pernoctans  in  oratione  Dei.2  I  say  I  am  anxious  to 
imitate  the  life  of  Jesus,  here  is  something  in  which  I  can 
do  so.  Would  it  not  be  possible  (afterwards)  to  spend  an 
hour  at  night  in  the  chapel  after  examen  ? 


i. — In  the  daytime  He  was  teaching  in  the  Temple. — S.  Luke  21,  37. 
2. — He  passed  the  whole  night  in  the  prayer  of  God. — S.  Luke  6,   12. 


LONG   RETREAT  53 


FRUIT    OF    THE    SECOND    WEEK. 

A  great  desire  to  know  our  Lord  better,  His  attractive 
character,  His  personal  love  for  me,  the  resolve  to  read 
the  life  of  Christ  and  study  the  Gospels. 

I  feel  also  a  longing  to  love  Jesus  passionately,  to  try 
my  very  best  to  please  Him,  and  to  do  all  I  think  will  please 
Him.  I  see  nothing  will  be  dearer  to  Him  than  my  sancti- 
fication,  chiefly  attained  by  the  perfection  with  which  I 
perform  even  the  smallest  action.  "All  for  love  of  Jesus." 

i  Nov.,  1907. 


THE     ELECTION. 
REASONS    AGAINST. 

(1)  I  am  not  certain  of  the  will  of  God. 

(2)  I  should  like  to  remain  for  some  years  in  Ireland  and 
work  for  souls. 

(3)  Should  I  not  do  more  good  by  remaining  in  Ireland 
instead  of  burying  myself  among  a  few  blacks  whose  language 
I  do  not  know  ? 

(4)  I  may  have  a  long  useful  life  at  home ;  on  the  mission 
probably  a  very  short  one. 

REASONS    FOR. 

(1)  The   almost   certain   conviction   that   I   have   a   real 
vocation  for  the  foreign  mission. 

(2)  This  thought  has  been  in  my  mind  for  over   twenty 
years  and  the  thought  of  it  has  given  me   great   pleasure 
and  consolation. 

(3)  My  desire,  even  as  a  boy,  to  be  a  martyr. 

(4)  The  letter  I  wrote  as  a  novice.1 

i. — Presumably  he  volunteered  for  the  foreign  mission. 


54  FATHER  WILLIAM  DOYLE,   S.J 

(5)  The  feeling  that,  if  I  do  not  offer  myself,  I  certainly 
shall  not  please  God. 

(6)  The  attraction  I  feel  for  a  life  of  real  privation  and 
suffering. 

(7)  This  is  much  stronger  since  the  retreat,  in  order  to  be 
more  like  Jesus. 

(8)  In  the  spirit  of  the  Third  Degree  I  should  make  this 
sacrifice. 

(9)  The  hardship  of  the  life,  a  great  help  to  holiness. 

(10)  The  attraction  the  life  of  St.  Peter  Claver  has  always 
had  for  me,  my  desire  to  imitate  him. 

(n)  The  souls  I  shall  be  able  to  save,  and  who  otherwise 
would  never  see  heaven. 

(12)  As  an  English-speaking  priest  I  may  be  of  help  to 
the  missionaries. 

(13)  I  feel  quite  content  that  I  was  doing  God's  will  when 
I  resolved  two  years  ago  to  offer  myself  for  the  foreign 
mission. 

A.  M.  D.  o. 

MY  ELECTION. 

To-day  the  First  Friday  of  November,  the  Feast  of  All 
Saints,  I  made  my  election  about  offering  myself  for  the 
Congo  Mission.  During  the  retreat  I  have  been  praying 
and  thinking  over  this,  asking  for  light  to  know  God's  holy 
will  which  alone  I  seek.  The  reasons  for  offering  myself 
are  overwhelming,  but  one  thought  troubled  and  upset  me — 
I  see  in  this  that  it  came  from  the  evil  one.  "  By  remaining 
in  Ireland  and  working  zealously  for  many  years  could  I 
not  do  far  more  for  God's  glory  than  by  going  on  the  mission 
where  almost  certainly  I  shall  not  live  long  ?  " 

(1)  I  got  light  to  see  that  this  was  only  a  delusion  of 
sell-love,  seeking,  under  pretext  of  good,  a  life  gratifying  to 
human  nature  and  my  pride. 

(2)  Would  this  life  be  pleasing  to  God,  if  He  wanted  me 
to  work  for  Him  among  the  negroes  ? 

(3)  God  is  able  to  open  up  a  vast  field  for  my  zeal  if  He 
wishes  it,  no  matter  where  I  may  be. 


LONG    &ETREAT  55 

(4)  What  I  lose  by  rejecting  the  glorious  opportunity  of 
the  foreign  mission  to  become  like  to  Jesus,  the  help  to 
sanctity,  the  possibility  of  martyrdom. 

(5)  Lastly    I  simply  felt  I  was  powerless  to  refuse  Jesus 
this  sacrifice  which  He  has  been  asking  for  over  twenty 
years.     I  could  not  refuse  and  live  and  die  in  peace.     How 
after  such  clear  lights  and  inspirations  could  I  face  Jesus 
at  my  judgement,  knowing  I  did  not  do  what  He  wanted  ? 

During  Benediction  I  resolved  to  confirm  the  resolution 
already  made  at  Milltown  :  to  offer  my  life  for  the  Congo 
mission.  In  doing  so  I  choose  nothing  myself  but  place 
myself  without  reserve  in  the  hands  of  my  Superiors  that 
they  may  declare  God's  holy  will  to  me.  An  interior  voice 
seemed  to  say,  "  You  will  never  regret  this  resolution  and 
offering." 

I  offered  my  resolution  to  the  Most  Sacred  Heart  of  Jesus, 
praying  Him  to  accept  me  for  this  life.  Since  then  my  soul 
has  been  filled  with  joy  and  consolation.  I  am  quite  happy 
and  content,  for  I  feel  God  has  given  me  grace  to  do  what 
He  wants. 

Feast  of  All  Saints,  1907. 


THIRD      WEEK. 

2  Nov.,  1907. 

I  was  greatly  struck  and  helped  yesterday  by  these  words 
of  the  "  Imitation  "  :    Fill,  sine  me  tecum  agere  quod  volo 
ego  scio  quid  expediat  tibi.1       They  gave  me  courage  to  place 
myself  without  reserve  in  God's  hands.      How  happy  I  feel 
now  that  I  have  done  so  and  made  my  sacrifice. 

[THE  PASSION.] 

All  my  life  my  study  has  been  to  avoid  suffering  as  much 
as  possible,  to  make  my  life  a  comfortable  one  How  unlike 
my  Jesus  I  have  been,  who  sought  to  suffer  on  every  occasion 
for  me,  for  me.  I  should  be  glad  when  pain  comes  and 
welcome  it,  because  it  makes  me  more  like  Jesus. 

i. — "  My  child,  let  Me  do  with  you  what  I  will;  I  know  what  is  good  for 
you." — Imitation  of  Christ  iii.  17,  i.  A  favourite  quotation  of  Fr.  Doyle's. 


56  FATHER  WILLIAM   DOYLE,   SJ. 

'  During  His  Passion  our  Lord  was  bound  and  dragged 
from  place  to  place.  I  have  hourly  opportunities  of  imitating 
Him  by  going  cheerfully  to  the  duty  of  the  moment — 
recreation  when  I  want  to  be  quiet,  a  walk  when  I  would 
rather  stay  in  my  room,  some  unpleasant  duty  I  did  not 
expect,  a  call  of  charity  which  means  great  inconvenience 
for  myself. 

My  denial  of  Jesus  has  been  baser  than  that  of  Peter,  for 
I  have  refused  to  listen  to  His  voice  calling  me  back  for 
fifteen  years.  But  Jesus  has  won  my  heart  in  this  retreat 
by  His  patient  look  of  love.  God  grant  my  repentance  may 
in  some  degree  be  like  St.  Peter's.  I  could  indeed  weep 
bitterly  for  the  wasted  sinful  past  in  the  Society,  the  time 
I  have  squandered,  the  little  good  done,  and  the  awful  amount 
of  harm  by  my  bad  example  in  every  house  in  which  I  have 
been.  What  might  I  not  have  done  for  Jesus  !  What  a 
saint  I  might  have  been  now  !  Dear  Jesus,  You  forgave 
St.  Peter,  forgive  me  also  for  /  will  serve  You  now. 

At  the  community  Mass  this  morning  /  again  felt  an  over 
powering  desire  to  become  a  saint.  It  came  suddenly  filling 
my  soul  with  consolation.  Surely  God  has  an  object  in 
inspiring  me  so  often  with  this  desire  and  has  great  graces 
for  me  if  I  will  only  cooperate  with  Him. 

Reflecting  on  this  inspiration  afterwards,  I  saw  more 
clearly  that  the  chief  thing  God  wants  from  me  at  present 
is  an  extraordinary  and  exquisite  perfection  in  every  little 
thing  I  do,  even  the  odd  Hail  Marys  of  the  day  ;  that  each 
day  there  must  be  some  improvement  in  the  fervour,  the 
purity  of  intention,  the  exactness  with  which  I  do  things, 
that  in  this  will  chiefly  lie  my  sanctification  as  it  sanctified 
St.  John  Berchmans.  I  see  here  a  vast  field  for  work  and  an 
endless  service  of  mortification.  To  keep  faithfully  to  this 
resolve  will  require  heroism,  so  that  day  after  day  I  may  not 
flag  in  the  fervour  of  my  service  of  the  good  God. 

The  fruit  of  the  Third  Week,  says  Fr.  Petit,  is  great 
compassion  and  increase  of  fortitude.  To  "  suffer  with  " 
Jesus,  to  long  for  sufferings,  must  be  my  aim  and  prayer. 
Since  my  "  Promise "  I  have  been  doing  ten  acts  of 
self-denial — why  not  try  to  make  it  thirty  a  day  ?  I  have 


LONG  RETREAT  57 

so  much  to  atone  for,  so  much  time  wasted  in  the  past,  so 
little  of  life  left.  Ceaseless  war  on  your  comfort,  no  rest 
now,  eternity  is  long  enough. 

[THE  SCOURGING.] 

During  all  these  long  years  Jesus  has  been  standing  bound 
at  the  pillar,  while  I  have  cruelly  scourged  Him  by  my 
ingratitude  and  neglect  of  my  vocation.  Each  action 
carelessly  done,  the  hours  spent  in  sleep,  each  moment 
wasted,  have  been  so  many  stripes  on  my  Saviour's  bleeding 
body.  He  has  been  bearing  all  this  to  save  me  from  His 
Father's  just  anger.  And  all  the  while  I  have  heard  His 
gentle  voice,  "  My  child,  will  you  not  love  Me  ?  I  want 
your  heart.  I  want  you  to  strive  and  become  a  saint,  to 
be  generous  with  Me  and  refuse  Me  nothing."  Can  I  now 
turn  away  again  as  before  and  refuse  to  listen  ? 

With  Jesus  naked  and  shivering  with  bitter  cold  at  the 
pillar,  I  will  try  joyfully  to  bear  the  effects  of  cold.  With 
Jesus  covered  with  wounds,  I,  too,  will  try  to  endure  little 
sufferings  without  relief. 

[CALVARY.] 

The  greatest  thirst  of  Jesus  on  the  Cross  was  his  thirst 
for  souls.  He  saw  then  the  graces  and  inspirations  He  would 
give  me  to  save  souls  for  Him.  In  what  way  shall  I 
correspond  and  console  my  Saviour  ? 

The  thought  has  been  very  much  in  my  mind  during  this 
week  that  Jesus  asks  from  me  the  sacrifice  of  all  the  pleasures 
of  the  world — such  as  villa,1  plays,  concerts,  football-matches, 
cinematograph,  etc, ;  that  I  am  to  seek  my  recreation  and 
find  my  pleasure  in  Him  alone.  Life  is  indeed  too  short 
now  for  me  to  waste  a  moment  in  such  things.  May  God 
give  me  a  great  disgust  for  all  these  things  in  which  formerly 
I  took  such  delight  ! 

This  morning  I  had  a  great  struggle  not  to  sleep.  Then 
God  rewarded  me  with  much  light  and  generous  resolve.  I 

i. — Summer  \acation. 


58  FATHER  WILLIAM   DOYLEl  S.J. 

was  meditating  on  my  desire  to  die  a  martyr's  death  for 
Jesus,  and  then  asked  myself  if  I  was  really  in  earnest,  why 
did  I  not  begin  to  die  to  myself,  to  die  to  my  own  will,  the 
inclinations  and  desires  of  my  lower  nature.  I  wish  to  die 
a  martyr's  death — but  am  I  willing  to  live  a  martyr's  life  ? 
To  live  a  crucified  life  '  seeking  in  all  things  my  constant 
mortification '  P1 


A    COMPACT    WITH    JESUS. 

"  My  God,  I  promise  You,  kneeling  before  the  image  of 
Your  Sacred  Heart,  that  I  will  do  my  best  to  lead  a  martyr's 
life  by  constantly  denying  my  will  and  doing  all  that  I  think 
will  please  You,  if  You  in  return  will  grant  me  the  grace 
of  martyrdom." 

A  life  of  martyrdom  is  to  be  the  price  of  a  martyr's  crown 


FRUIT    OF    THE    THIRD    WEEK. 

The  thought  that  Jesus  has  suffered  so  much  for  me  to 
atone  for  my  sins  and  past  careless  life  in  religion,  has  filled 
me  with  a  great  desire  to  love  Him  in  return  with  all  my 
heart,  I  feel,  too,  a  growing  hunger  and  thirst  for  suffering 
and  mortification,  because  it  makes  me  more  like  to  my 
suffering  Jesus,  suffering  all  with  joy  for  me 

Every  day  has  deepened  my  shame,  sorrow  and  hatred 
for  my  negligent  tepid  life  since  I  entered  the  Society,  and 
strengthened  my  resolve  and  desire  to  make  amends  by  a 
life  of  great  fervour.  I  feel  my  past  sinful  life  will  be  a  spur 
for  me  to  aim  at  great  holiness. 


i. — Summarium  Constitutionum  S.J.,  12. 


LONG    RETREAT  59 

FOURTH      WEEK. 

10  Nov.,  1907. 

The  reason  I  find  it  so  hard  to  love  God,  why  I  have  so 
little  affection  for  Him,  is  because  of  my  attachment  to  venial 
sin  and  my  constant  deliberate  imperfections.  I  have,  as 
it  were,  been  trying  to  run  with  an  immense  weight  round 
my  feet  ;  I  have  tried  to  reach  the  unitive  way  without 
passing  through  the  purgative,  to  jump  to  the  top  of  the 
ladder  without  climbing  up  the  steps  ;  so  that  after  all 
these  years  I  am  still  as  barren  of  real  love  of  God  as  when 
first  I  entered  religion.  No,  I  must  work  earnestly  now 
to  remove  the  very  shadow  of  sin  from  my  life,  then  to  imitate 
the  humble  suffering  life  of  Jesus  and  thus  win  His  love. 

I  look  upon  it  as  a  great  grace  that  in  spite  of  my  tepid 
life  Jesus  has  given  me  an  ardent  desire  to  love  Him.  I  long 
eagerly  to  love  my  Jesus  passionately,  with  an  intense  ardent 
love  such  as  the  saints  had  ;  and  yet  I  remain  cold  and 
indifferent  with  little  zeal  for  His  glory. 

[EMMAUS.] 

From  the  Tabernacle  Jesus  seems  to  say,  "  Stay  with  Me 
for  it  is  towards  evening  and  the  day  is  now  far  spent  " 
This  should  urge  me  to  come  to  visit  Him  often. 

If  my  resurrection  is  a  real  one  and  is  to  produce  fruit, 
it  must  be  external,  so  that  all  may  see  I  am  not  the  same 
man,  that  my  life  is  changed  in  Christ. 

[APPARITION   BY  THE  LAKESIDE.] 

Lord,  You  know  I  love  You  less  than  any  others,  but 
I  long  and  desire  to  love  You  more  than  all  the  rest.  Take 
my  heart,  dear  Lord,  and  hide  it  in  Your  own,  that  so  I  may 
only  love  what  You  love  and  desire  what  You  desire.  May 

i. — 5.  Luke  24.  29. 


6o  FATHER  WILLIAM   DOYLE,   SJ 

I  find  no  pleasure  in  the  things  of  this  world,  its  pleasures 
and  amusement ;  but  may  my  one  delight  be  in  thinking 
of  You,  working  for  You,  loving  You*  and  staying  in  Your 
sweet  presence  before  the  Tabernacle.  Why  do  You  want 
my  love,  dear  Jesus,  and  why  have  You  left  me  no  rest 
all  these  years  till  I  gave  You  at  last  my  poor  heart  to  love 
You,  and  You  alone  ?  This  ceaseless  pleading  for  my  love 
fills  me  with  hope  and  confidence  that,  sinful  as  my  life  has 
been  in  the  past,  You  have  forgiven  and  forgotten  it  all. 
Thanks  a  million  times,  dearest  Jesus,  for  all  Your 
goodness.  I  will  love  and  serve  You  now  till  death. 

13  Nov.,  igoy.1  Amen 


REFLECTIONS    ON    THE    RETREAT. 

At  the  close  of  the  retreat  my  soul  is  full  of  many 
emotions.  God  has  been  more  than  good  to  me,  has  given 
me  great  lights  and  wonderful  graces.  During  the  whole 
month  my  eyes  have  been  opening  more  and  more  to  the 
disorder  of  my  past  life.  I  have  been  simply  amazed  and 
astounded  how  I  could  possibly  have  lived  the  life  I  did, 
especially  my  years  in  college,  such  abuse  of  grace,  such 
awful  waste  of  time,  neglect  of  opportunities  of  learning,  of 
becoming  holy,  and  above  all  the  harm  this  careless  tepid 
life  has  done  others.  I  have  realised  how  little  I  thought 
about  committing  sin  and;  far  less,  of  deliberate  breaches 
of  rule.  Now,  through  God's  great  mercy,  I  feel  an  intense 
hatred  of  such  a  life,  and  as  if  it  would  be  impossible  ever 
again  to  live  so.  I  feel  that  indeed  the  retreat  has  worked 
a  marvellous  change  in  me.  I  feel  I  am  not  the  same  in 
my  views,  sentiments,  and  way  of  looking  at  things,  that  I 
am  a  different  man.  I  have  never  felt  as  I  do  now  after 
any  other  retreat  before  God  must  indeed  have  poured  His 
grace  abundantly  into  my  soul,  for  it  seems  to  me  that  a 

i. — There  is  here  inserted  a  table  with  two  numbers  (each  about  500) 
corresponding-  to  the  morning  and  evening  of  each  day  of  retreat.  This 
evidently  records  the  number  of  aspirations  made. 


.     LONG    RETREAT  6r 

deep  lasting  impression  has  been  made,  which  I  trust  will 
ever  remain.  My  soul  is  in  great  peace.  I  feel  as  if  at  last 
I  have  given  God  all  He  wanted  from  me  during  so  many 
years  by  making  the  resolutions  which  I  have  made  ;  that 
.1  could  now  die  content,  for  at  last  I  have  really  begun  to 
try  and  serve  the  good  God  with  all  my  heart.  I  feel  also 
a  great  longing  to  love  Jesus  very,  very  much,  to  draw  very 
close  to  His  Sacred  Heart,  and  to  be  ever  united  to  Him, 
always  thinking  of  Him  and  praying.  I  long  ardently  to 
do  something  now  to  make  up  for  my  neglect  in  the  past — 
to  give  myself  heart  and  soul  to  the  service  of  Cod,  to  toil 
for  Him,  to  wear  myself  out  for  Him.  I  wish  to  be  able 
never  to  seek  rest  or  amusement  outside  of  what  obedience 
imposes,  so  that  every  moment  may  be  spent  for  Jesus.  I 
have  not  a  moment  to  lose,  I  cannot  afford  to  refuse  Him  a 
single  sacrifice  if  I  wish  to  do  anything  for  Jesus  and  become 
a  saint  before  I  die.  If  I  go  to  the  Congo,  I  certainly  shall 
not  live  long.  In  any  case  can  I  promise  myself  even  one 
day  more  ?  Finis  venit.1  I  must  try  to  look  upon  this 
day  as  my  last  on  earth  and  do  all  I  can  and  surfer  all  I  can 
for  these  few  hours.  It  is  not  a  question  of  keeping  up 
full  steam  for  years,  but  only  for  to-day. 

If  I  am  faithful  to  the  resolution  of  "  doing  all  things 
perfectly,"  I  shall  effectually  cut  away  the  numerous  faults 
in  all  my  actions.  By  working  hard  at  the  Third  Degree 
I  shall  best  correct  those  things  to  which  my  attention  has 
been  drawn.  I  know  all  this  is  going  to  cost  me  much,  that 
I  shall  have  a  fierce  battle  to  fight  with  the  devil  and  myself. 
But  I  begin  with  great  hope  and  confidence,  for  since  Jesus 
has  inspired  me  to  make  these  resolutions  and  urged  me  on 
till  I  did  so,  His  grace  will  not  be  wanting  to  aid  me  at 
every  step. 

In  the  name  of  God,  then,  I  enter  upon  the  Narrow  Path 
which  leads  to  sanctity,  walking  bravely  on  in  imitation 
of  my  Jesus  Who  is  by  my  side  carrying  His  cross.  To 
imitate  Him  »and  make  my  life  resemble  His  in  some  small 
degree,  will  be  my  life's  work,  that  so  I  may  be  worthy  to 
die  for  Him. 

i. — The  end  is  come. — Ezech.  7.  2. 


62  FATHER  WILLIAM   DOYLE.   S.J. 

Thank  You,  O  my  God,  for  all  the  graces  of  this  retreat, 
above  all  for  bringing  me  at  last  to  Your  sacred  feet.  Grant 
me  grace  to  keep  these  resolutions  and  never  to  forget  my 
determination  to  strive  might  and  main  to  become  a  saint. 

13  Nov.,  1907. 

Hoc  unusquisque  persuasion  habeat :  tantum  se  in  studiis 
spiritualibus  promoturum  esse,  quantum  ab  amore  sui  ipsius 
et  proprii  commodi  affectione  sese  abstraxerit. — St.  Ignatius.1 


A.  M.  D.  G. 

RESOLUTIONS    OF    LONG    RETREAT,     1907. 

1.  I  must  remember  that  I  have  offered  myself  for  the 
Congo.     I  may  be  sent  now  at  any  moment,  and  then  I 
shall  have  only  a  very  short  time  to  live. 

2.  Is  my  life  all  that  the  life  of  a  future  missioner,  and 
perhaps  martyr,  should  be  ? 

3.  My  ideal :    the  Third  Degree  of  Humility  in  all  its 
perfection. 

4.  My  great  devotion  :    the  Sacred  Heart  in  the  Blessed 
Eucharist. 

5.  I  will  say  as  much  of  my  Office  as  I  can  in  the  chapel, 

6.  Each  day,   if  possible,   1,000   ejaculations,   but  never 
less  than  500. 

7.  Each  day  30  little  acts  of  mortification,  if  I  can,  but 
always  never  less  than  15. 

8.  The  object  of  my  life  to  be  close  union  with  and  intense 
love  of  God.     To  acquire  this  I  will  (a)  fly  from  the  shadow 
of  sin,  never  deliberately  break  a  rule,  custom  or  regulation ; 
(b)  do  each  little  action  purely  for  the  love  of  Jesus,  with 
exquisite    exactness,    fervour    and    devotedness ;    (c)    beg 
constantly  and  earnestly  for  a  great  increase  of  love. 

i. — "  Let  each  be  convinced  that  he  will  make  progress  in  all  spiritual 
matters  in  proportion  as  he  has  divested  himself  of  his  own  self-love,  his  own 
will  and  self-interest." — Spiritual  Exercises  (end  of  second  week)  p.  60. 
Compare  the  Imitation  of  Christ  (i.  25,  10) :  Tantum  fro/fries  quantum  tibi 
ipsi  vim  intuleris. 


LONG    RETREAT  63 

9.  I  will  try  and  bear  little  sufferings  without  seeking 
relief. 

10.  Never  to  give  way  to  sleep  during  the  day. 

11.  Great  attention  to  the  Rules  of  Modesty,  especially 
custody  of  the  eyes. 

12.  To  read  these  resolutions  once  a  week. 

Motto :    ''Agere  contra  " — all  for  the  love  of  Jesus  and 
to  win  His  love. 

Feast  of  St.  Stanislaus,  1907. 


64  FATHER  WILLIAM   DOYLE,   S  J. 

CHAPTER  V. 
APOSTOLATE 

(l.)    MISSIONS    AND    RETREATS. 

AT  the  end  of  his  tertianship  Fr.  Doyle  was  once  more 
placed  on  the  teaching  staff  of  Belvedere  College.  Next 
year  (1909)  he  was  appointed  Minister  at  Belvedere. 
In  1910  he  was  transferred  to  the  mission  staff  of  which  he 
remained  an  active  member  until  November,  1915.  These 
were  years  of  incessant  work  which  resulted  in  an  abundant 
harvest  of  souls.  Altogether  (from  1908  to  1915)  Fr  Doyle 
gave  152  missions  and  retreats.  He  had  many  of  the  natural 
gifts  which  go  to  make  a  successful  missioner  :  an  impressive 
appearance,  a  clear  vibrant  voice,  considerable  fluency,  great 
earnestness,  painstaking  preparation  and  indomitable  energy. 
Outside  the  pulpit  he  was  even  more  successful.  His  breadth 
of  view  and  his  patient  sympathy  made  him  an  ideal  con 
fessor,  and  during  missions  his  confessional  was  always 
besieged.  As  a  "  shimmer  "  and  beater-up  of  hard  cases 
he  had  few  equals.  None  could  withstand  his  winning  and 
persuasive  ways ;  his  childlike  directness  and  self-sacrificing 
kindness  were  irresistible.  Grace  seemed  to  go  out  from 
him.  He  once  wrote  in  a  confidential  letter  : 

"  I  have  not  met  a  single  refusal  to  come  to  the  mission 
or  to  confession  so  far  during  my  missionary  career.  Why 
should  there  be  one  because  Jesus  for  some  mysterious 
reason  seems 'to  delight  in  using  perhaps  the  most  wretched 
of  all  His  priests  as  the  channel  of  His  grace  ?  When  I  go 
to  see  a  hard  hopeless  case,  I  cannot  describe  what  happens 
exactly,  but  I  seem  to  be  able  to  lift  up  my  heart  like  a  cup 
and  pour  grace  and  the  love  of  God  upon  that  poor  soul. 
I  can  see  the  result  instantly,  almost  like  the  melting  of 
snow." 

It  would  almost  seem  as  if  the  exerting  of  spiritual  influence 
were  a  sensible  phenomenon  to  the  writer.  He  had  plenty 


/  MISSIONS   AND   RETREATS  65 

of  experience,  for  he  loved  to  hunt  out  the  most  hardened 
and  neglected  sinners  and  to  bring  them  back  with  him  to 
the  church  for  confession.  In  one  city  he  used  during  his 
mission  to  go  down  to  the  quays  at  midnight  to  meet  ships 
due  to  arrive,  and  to  induce  the  crews  to  promise  attendance 
or  even  to  go  to  confession  at  once.  And  next  morning  he 
was  out  before  six  o'clock  on  the  same  apostolic  errand, 
waylaying  factory  girls  and  mill-hands  going  to  work. 

A  consuming  zeal  for  souls  was  the  source  of  this  untiring 
energy  and  the  secret  of  his  influence.  "  My  intense  desire 
and  longing,"  he  once  wrote,  "is  to  make  others  love  Jesus 
and  to  draw  them  to  His  Sacred  Heart.  Recently  at  Mass 
I  have  found  myself  at  the  Dominus  Vobiscum  opening  my 
arms  wide  with  the  intention  of  embracing  every  soul  present 
and  drawing  them  in  spite  of  themselves  into  that  Heart 
which  longs  for  their  love.  '  Compel  them  to  come  in/ 
Jesus  said.  Yes,  compel  them  to  dive  into  that  abyss  of 
love.  Sometimes,  I  might  say  nearly  always,  when  speaking 
to  people  I  am  seized  with  an  extraordinary  desire  to  draw 
their  hearts  to  God.  I  could  go  down  on  my  knees  before 
them  and  beg  them  to  be  pure  and  holy,  so  strong  do  I  feel 
the  longing  of  Jesus  for  sanctity  in  everyone,  and  since  I 
may  not  do  this,  I  try  to  do  what  I  find  hard  to  describe 
in  words — to  pour  out  of  my  heart  any  grace  or  love  of  God 
there  may  be  in  it,  and  then  with  all  the  force  of  my  will 
to  draw  their  hearts  into  that  of  Jesus." 

In  his  mission- work  he  relied  greatly  on  prayers,  for  which 
he  was  constantly  appealing  to  convents  and  schools. 
"Ammunition  for  the  Missions  "  he  called  such  spiritual 
help.  "  Pray  for  a  hard  case  here,"  "A  little  prayer  for 
a  big  fish  of  forty  years  whom  I  hope  to  land  to-morrow," 
"  Get  all  the  prayers  you  can,  even  an  aspiration  may  save 
a  soul  "  —these  and  suchlike  requests  occur  constantly  in , 
his  letters.  "  I  am  going  to  say  a  special  Mass  in  future." 
he  wrote  (3Oth  April,  1911),  "on  the  first  Sunday  of  each 
month  for  all  those  who  pray  for  my  missions  and  retreats^ 
I  shall  be  grateful  if  you  would  kindly  make  this  known."1 

i. — During  n  mission  in  Cork  he  offered  prizes  in  a  school  to  the  children 
who  prayed  most,  and  gave  them  to  the  little  ones  himself  at  the  close  of  the 

mission. 


66  FATHER   WILLIAM   DOYLE,   SJ 

And  again  on  the  Feast  of  Corpus  Christi,  1913 — he  had  been 
hearing  confessions  on  the  day  before  from  half-past  five 
in  -the  morning  until  eleven  at  night  :  "I  wish  nuns  could 
know  the  miracles  their  prayers  work  during  missions  in  the 
hearts  of  poor  sinners  years  away  from  God  ;  it  would  make 
them  do  so  much  more."  "  I  think,"  he  once  said,  "  there 
are  too  many  workers  in  most  religious  houses,  but  not  half 
enough  toilers  on  their  knees."1 

He  did  not  confine  himself  to  asking  the  prayers  of  others, 
he  also  toiled  on  his  own  knees.  During  a  mission  or  retreat 
he  sought  to  increase  and  intensify  his  own  prayer  instead 
of  curtailing  it.  '  The  more  I  have  to  do,"  he  once  wrote, 
"  the  greater  I  feel  the  need  of  prayer,  so  that  between  the 
two  the  poor  sleep  has  a  bad  time."  After  an  arduous 
day's  work  in  pulpit  and  confessional  he  would  often  spend 
a  good  part  of  the  night  before  the  Tabernacle,  cutting  his 
sleep  down  to  three  or  four  hours.  Thus  during  a  mission 
in  Drogheda,  the  curate  observed  that  Fr.  Doyle  on  emerging 
from  his  confessional  at  eleven  o'clock  at  night  used  to  retire 
to  the  little  oratory  and  remain  on  his  knees  before  the 
Blessed  Sacrament  until  the  clock  struck  two  ;  yet  he  was 
always  up  and  out  of  the  house  before  any  one  else  was 
astir.  And  in  addition  to  all  this,  there  was  continuous 
and  severe  penance.  Few  have  believed  so  literally  that 
the  devil  is  cast  out  only  by  prayer  and  fasting.  Here  is 
one  precious  revelation  of  his  nocturnal  rest ;  it  was  after 
a  hard  day's  work  during  a  mission  in  Glasgow,  and  in 
addition  he  was  suffering  from  a  cold : 

"  I  made  the  Holy  Hour  prostrate  on  the  marble  flags, 
and  by  moving  from  time  to  time  I  continued  to  get  the 
full  benefit  of  the  cold.  Then  for  two  hours  I  made  the 
Stations  of  the  Cross,  standing,  kneeling,  and  prostrate, 

i.— Compare  the  saying1  of  the  Little  Flower  in  her  Autobiography:  "O  Mother, 
how  beautiful  is  our  vocation  !  It  is  for  us  on  Carmel  to  preserve  the  salt  of  the 
earth.  We  offer  our  prayers  and  our  sacrifices  for  the  Lord's  apostles  ;  we 
must  ourselves  be  their  apostles,  while  by  their  words  and  their  examples  they 
are  evangelising  the  souls  of  our  brothers." — Sceur  Therese  .  .  .  Histoire  d' une 
fane>  P-  955  Eng.  trans.  (The  Little  Flower}  p.  96.  Also  Soeur  Gertrude- 
Marie  (Lsg'ueu,  Une  mystique  de  nos  jours,  1910,  p.  348 — a  favourite  book  of 
Fr.  Doyle's) :  "  Once  more  Jesus  made  me  change  my  day's  intentions : 
'  To-day  you  will  pray  for  all  the  souls  who  will  go  to  confession  and  prepare 
for  their  Easter  duty  to-morrow  [Palm  Sunday,  1907].  You  will  also  pray  for 
the  confessors.'  " 


MISSIONS   AND   RETREATS  67 

taking  fourteen  strokes  of  the  discipline  at  each  Station. 
For  the  rest  of  the  night  I  remained  kneeling  before  the 
Tabernacle,  at  intervals  with  arms  outstretched,  till  I  could 
bear  the  agony  of  this  no  longer." 

The  man  who  acted  thus  was  no  sickly  or  morbid 
solitary.  He  was  a  healthy,  good-humoured,  broad-minded, 

hard-working  missioner,  "  with  no  d nonsense  about  him," 

as  one  penitent  expressed  it.  But  in  his  soul  there  were 
chords  attuned  to  finer  spiritual  symphonies  than  our  dull 
wits  can  discern.  He  knew,  not  by  theoretic  reasoning  but 
by  intuition  and  experience,  that  there  is  a  mysterious  law 
governing  the  movements  of  spiritual  energy,  a  divine 
economy  in  the  operations  of  grace.  Souls  are  won  by 
prayer  and  suffering ;  God  wishes  the  deficit  of  sin  to  be 
filled  up  with  the  overflow  of  chosen  souls.  Men  sometimes 
reason  about  this  and  call  it  learned  names.  Fr.  Doyle 
lived  it.  He  gave  to  his  missions  not  only  lip-service, 
but  the  devotion  of  his  whole  being.  Like  his  divine 
Master  he  could  say,  "  For  them  do  I  sanctify  myself." 
(S.  John  17.  19.)  He  strove  to  help  others  out  of  the  spon 
taneous  redundancy  of  his  own  spiritual  life.  Whatever  he 
said  to  others  passed  first  through  his  own  heart  and  therein 
it  gained  something  deeper  and  more  soul-stirring  than  any 
natural  fluency  or  learning  could  impart. 

Testimonies  to  his  success  as  a  missioner  are  numerous, 
"  The  results  of  your  mission,"  wrote  a  Parish  Priest,  "  have 
exceeded  my  anticipations  and  all  previous  experiences. 
Indeed,  the  people  speak  of  it  with  awe,  as  of  a  miraculous 
manifestation  and  veritable  outpouring  of  grace  "  "  Your 
retreat  here  has  been  a  wonderful  success,"  says  another 
letter,  "  It  has  completely  changed  many.  People  are  still 
talking  about  it,  and  better  still,  living  up  to  its  lessons." 
"  I  can't  tell  you,"  wrote  a  Parish  Priest  after  his  death, 

"  how  we  all  loved  him  in  D .  The  people  could  never 

get  enough  of  him,  and  asked  to  have  him  back  again  and 
again.  I  wanted  him  here  when  I  came,  but  he  was  just 
starting  for  the  Front  "  "  Father,"  said  a  man  at  the  end 
of  a  mission,  "  it  was  the  holiest  mission  we  ever  had."  From 
time  to  time  Willie  himself  speaks  in  his  letters  of  his  mission 
work  and  how  blessed  it  was  by  God. 


68  .FATHER   WILLIAM   DOYLE,   SJ. 

"  My  success  here,"  he  writes  "  has  far  surpassed  anything 
I  looked  for.  But  it  is,  of  course,  the  work  of  God's  grace. 
I  do  not  think  I  could  possibly  find  food  for  vainglory  in 
anything  I  have  done  no  more  than  an  organ-grinder  prides 
himself  on  the  beautiful  music  he  produces  by  turning  a 
handle.  God  knows  I  only  wish  and  seek  His  greater  glory, 
and  to  make  others  love  Him,  if  I  cannot  love  Him  myself 
All  along  I  felt  it  was  all  His  doing,  and  that  I  was  just  a 
mere  instrument  in  His  hands,  and  a  wretched  one  at  that. 
All  through  I  had  the  feeling  that  I  was  like  an  old  bucket 
full  of  holes,  which  broke  the  poor  Lord's  Heart  as  He  tried 
to  carry  His  precious  grace  into  the  hearts  of  His  children." 

"  I  think  Jesus  was  pleased  with  our  work  here.  He 
certainly  showed  it  on  Sunday  when  I  asked  Him  to  give 
me  in  honour  of  His  Blessed  Mother  all  the  souls  I  intended 
to  visit  that  day  They  all  gave  in  to  His  grace,  including 
several  who  had  not  been  to  the  sacraments  for  very  man}' 
years.  People  say  it  is  hard  to  love  God.  I  only  wish  they 
could  realize  how  much  He  loves  them  and  wishes  their 
salvation  and  happiness." 

"  I  have  come  back  from  the  missions  with  feelings  of 
joy  and  gratitude,  for  these-  last  three  missions  have  been 
blessed  in  a  wonderful  way.  God  seems  to  take  a  special 
delight  in  seconding  my  efforts,  just  because  I  have  hurt 
Him  so  much  in  the  past  and  have  been  so  really  ungrateful. 
It  is  one  of  the  big  humiliations  of  my  life  and  makes  me 
thoroughly  ashamed  of  myself  that  our  Blessed  Lord  for  His 
own  wise  ends  conceals  my  shortcomings  from  others  and 
allows  me  to  do  a  little  good.  But  He  does  not  hide  the 
wretched  state  of  my  soul  from  myself.  I  am  not  speaking 
in  a  false  humble  strain,  but  serious  truth.  If  you,  or  anyone 
else,  could  only  see  the  way  I  have  acted  towards  Jesus 
all  my  life,  you  would  turn  away  from  me  in  disgust." 

"  I  have  had  much  consolation  in  my  work  recently.  The 
last  mission  was  the  hardest  I  have  given,  yet  it  seems  to 
have  been  singularly  blessed.  All  this  love  and  goodness 
on  the  part  of  Jesus  only  fills  me  with  a  deep  sorrow  that  I 
can  do  so  little  for  Him.  I  am  getting  afraid  of  Him,  just 
because  He  is  so  generous  to  me  and  blesses  all  I  do.  I  feel 
ashamed  when  people  praise  me  for  my  work,  the  sort  of 


MISSIONS   AND   RETREATS  69 

shame  a  piano  might  feel  if  someone  complimented  it  on  the 
beautiful  melody  that  came  from  its  keys.  I  am  realizing 
more  and  more  that  all  success  is  entirely  God's  work,  and 
that  self  does  not  count  at  all.  I  have  this  strange  feeling 
that  when  I  get  to  heaven  I  shall  have  little  merit  for  any 
thing  I  have  done  for  God's  glory,  since  all  has  been  the 
work  of  His  Hands." 

Though  he  accomplished  so  much  on  the  general  missions, 
he  found  more  congenial  work  in  giving  retreats,  especially 
to  religious  communities  During  his  first  two  years  on  the 
mission  staff  he  was  chiefly  engaged  in  giving  retreats  to 
sodalities  and  religious  communities.  Here  was  fruitful  soil 
for  the  self-denial  and  penance,  the  love  of  God  and  of 
perfection,  which  were  his  constant  themes,  and  for  whose 
easy  attainment  he  had  many  plans  and  holy  devices.  His 
zeal  and  enthusiasm  for  God  and  the  things  of  God  joined 
to  attractive  qualities  of  person  and  character  made  an 
impression  wherever  he  went,  and  soon  he  was  much  sought 
after.  During  one  summer  he  received  more  than  forty 
invitations  from  religious  communities  to  give  them  their 
annual  retreat.  From  the  very  many  testimonies  to  the 
good  he  effected  a  few  typical  sentences  may  be  quoted. 

"  No  retreat  ever  made  a  deeper  impression  on  the  com 
munity,  or  raised  the  tone  of  the  house  to  such  a  high  level 
of  spirituality,  as  that  conducted  by  Fr.  Doyle." 

"A  saintly  old  laysister  wept  the  whole  retreat  tears  of 
joy,  saying  she  had  never  in  her  whole  forty-five  years  in 
religion  felt  and  seen  so  visibly  the  effects  of  grace  in  herself 
and  others." 

"  Many  said  they  never  realized  before  what  religious 
life  meant,  but  that  now  they  were  going  to  give  God 
everything." 

"  Rev.  Mother  told  the  Bishop  that  no  retreat  for  the 
past  forty  years  had  made  such  an  impression. "- 

It  is  curiou^  to  note  that  in  spite  of  the  signal  success 
which  crowned  his  ministry,  he  was  at  times  subject  to  intense 
depression  and  discouragement.  "  Such  fear,  dread  and 
hatred  of  the  coming  mission  came  over  me,"  he  writes  to 
a  friend,  "  that  I  was  on  the  point  of  writing  to  ask  not  to 
be  sent,  and  at  the  last  moment  I  very  nearly  telegraphed 
to  say  I  couldn't  possibly  travel  " 


70  FATHER   WILLIAM   DOYLE,   SJ. 

"  I  went  to  M in  the  lowest  depths  of  fear  and  misery. 

For  some  time  before  I  had  been  very  ungenerous  with  God 
and  must  have  pained  Him  much.  On  this  account  I  felt 
I  had  no  right  to  count  on  His  help.  But  Jesus  took  His 
revenge  by  helping  me  more  than  ever.  Such  loving  for 
giveness  of  injury  makes  me  feel  oh  !  so  ashamed  of  my 
meanness." 

"  You  would  hardly  believe  the  fierceness  of  the 
temptation — the  old  one — before  beginning  this  mission,  the 
temptation  to  ask  to  get  off  it,  in  fact  to  give  up  the  mission 
life  altogether  as  something  almost  unbearable.  When  the 
work  starts  the  storm  subsides  somewhat,  but  honestly  I 
am  afraid  of  myself,  that  in  my  weakness  I  may  some  day 
ruin  God's  work  in  souls  by  giving  in  to  what  I  see  in  calmer 
moments  to  be  a  temptation." 

"  For  three-quarters  of  an  hour  I  preached  in  agony,  with 
the  perspiration  rolling  from  every  pore.  I  was  not  afraid 
of  breaking  down  before  the  congregation — that  would  have 
been  a  relief — but  the  physical  effort  to  utter  each  word 
was  torture,  and  the  longing,  time  after  time  more  intense, 
to  come  down  from  the  pulpit  was  almost  irresistible.  They 
told  me  I  preached  well  that  night,  yet  I  was  quite  unnerved, 
and  only  God  knows  what  I  went  through." 

Once  he  even  wrote  :  "I  am  ending  this  retreat  with  the 
resolution  of  never  giving  another."  Fortunately  it  was  one 
of  the  few  resolutions  he  never  kept.  Such  attacks  of 
dejection  are  quite  intelligible  in  one  of  Fr.  Doyle's  emotional 
temperament.  Even  from  the  purely  natural  point  of  view, 
his  exertion  of  personal  influence  on  others  was  an  exhausting 
experience  ;  in  all  such  efforts  something,  as  it  were,  seems 
to  pass  out  of  one  and  to  enter  into  one's  hearers.  It  was 
probably  some  subconscious  perception  of  this  which  made 
him  so  often  in  anticipation  shrink  from  the  ordeal.  But 
he  never  gave  way  to  this  discouragement  and  repugnance. 
He  worked  till  the  end  as  a  valiant  soldier  of  Christ,  laying 
aside  all  thoughts  of  personal  predilection  and  considerations 
of  ease.  He  crowded  his  mission  years  with  unremitting 
toil,  as  if  in  premonition  of  an  early  death.  Consummatus 
in  brevi,  explevit  tempora  multa.1 

i. — "  Being-  made  perfect  in  a  short  space,  he  fulfilled  a  long  time." — 
Wisdom  4,  13. 


RETREATS   FOR  THE   WORKERS  71 


(2.)    RETREATS    FOR    THE    WORKERS. 

It  is  a  tribute  to  Fr.  Doyle's  broadminded  character  and 
manysided  interests  that  he  not  only  devoted  himself  to 
giving  retreats  to  religious  and  priests,  but  was  also  a  warm 
advocate — indeed,  as  far  as  Ireland  is  concerned,  a  pioneer 
propagandist — of  retreats  for  working  men  and  women.  He 
had  seen  for  himself  the  great  good  effected  by  such  retreats 
in  France  and  Belgium  and  also,  since  1908,  in  England. 
He  became  convinced  that  in  Ireland,  too,  such  a  work  was 
of  great  social  and  religious  urgency.  Though  in  his  lifetime 
he  failed  to  overcome  the  forces  of  conservative  inaction 
and  apathy,  the  seed  which  he  sowed  will  surely  in  the  near 
future  germinate  into  a  fruitful  apostolate.  The  question 
is  by  no  means,  as  many  at  the  time  fancied,  a  mere  fad  or 
an  unnecessary  spiritual  luxury.  The  provision  of  workers* 
retreats  might  conceivably  have  been  a  matter  of  argument 
a  few  years  ago ;  to-day  it  is  clearly  an  immediately 
imperative  step,  if  the  Church  is  to  acquire  or  to  retain  its 
influence  over  democracy,  restive,  newly  awakened  and 
determined.1  There  are  already  in  Ireland  several  religious 
houses  where  middle-class  lay  men  and  women  can  make 
a  retreat  either  singly  or  in  groups.  Will  it  be  said  that  it 
is  the  purely  material  difficulty  which  is  allowed  to  debar 
Irish  workers  from  similar  facilities  ?  If  we  admit  that  an 
annual  retreat  is  necessary  for  priests  and  religious,  and 
that  occasional  or  periodical  retreats  are  extremely 
advantageous  to  Catholic  layfolk,  why  should  any  economic 
or  social  differentiation  exist  ?  The  mission  or  public  retreat, 
during  which  people  live  their  ordinary  life  and  pursue  their 
usual  work  while  attending  some  extra  sermons,  is  an 
altogether  different  matter.  What  is  here  in  question  is 
strictly  and  literally  a  retreat  ;  a  withdrawal,  however  brief, 
from  the  scenes  and  cares  and  routine  of  daily  life ;  an 
opportunity,  were  it  only  for  a  week-end,  of  realising  Christ's 
message  and  ideal  in  prayerful  silence  and  with  full  leisure 

i. — On   the   social   results   of  retreats   see    Fr.    Plater's    Retreats  for  the 
People  (1912),  ch.  13. 


72  FATHER   WILLIAM   DOYLE,   SJ. 

of  soul.  The  Spiritual  Exrecises  are  a  serious  and  a  sacred 
task  demanding  wholehearted  attention  and  devotion  ;  they 
are  deprived  of  their  efficacy  and  influence  if  they  are  reduced 
to  mere  interludes  before  and  after  a  day  filled  with  toil 
and  trouble  and  talk  St.  Ignatius  is  insistent  on  the 
observance  of  the  "Additions,"  some  of  which  may  seem 
rather  minute  to  us — such  as  the  exclusion  of  light  during 
the  serious  sombre  meditations  of  the  First  Week — but 
which  altogether  constitute  a  very  necessary  spiritual 
environment.  It  is  indeed  the  lesson  of  our  Lord  Himself  : 
the  soil  must  be  prepared  for  the  seed.  How  often  does  the 
seed  fall  amid  brambles  !  Many  is  the  one  "  that  heareth 
the  word,  and  the  cares  of  this  world  and  the  deceitfulness 
of  riches  choketh  up  the  word,  and  he  becometh  fruitless." 
(S.  Matthew  13,  22.)  Preparation  for  seed-sowing  is  as 
necessary  in  soul-culture  as  it  is  in  agriculture. 

There  is  ample  evidence  that  a  retreat,  filling  a  man's 
whole  life  for  a  few  days  amid  pleasant  and  spiritually 
refreshing  surroundings,  makes  a  far  deeper  and  more  lasting 
impression  than  a  public  mission  during  which  a  man  lives 
and  works  as  usual,  perhaps  in  the  midst  of  squalor,  noise 
and  misery. 

"  Only  those  who  have  witnessed  the  retreats  (says 
Fr.  Plater1 )  can  have  any  idea  of  the  wonderful  miracles  of 
grace  which  they  normally  effect  The  men — plain  workmen 
for  the  most  part — enter  on  the  retreat  with  some  bewilder 
ment  and  even  apprehension.  Some  are  merely  awkward, 
others  almost  defiant.  Ringleaders  of  infidelity  have  been 
known  to  come  out  of  curiosity,  the  only  condition  required 
of  them  being  that  they  should  keep  the  rules  of  the  house. 
But  on  the  second  day  a  change  is  seen  on  the  faces  of  all. 
They  are  very  much  in  earnest — hopeful  and  courageous, 
and  for  the  most  part  as  simple  and  docile  as  children  It 
is  touching  to  hear  their  expressions  of  gratitude  for  the 
benefits  which  they  have  received  from  their  retreat,  which 
all  are  sorry  to  quit  at  the  end  of  three  days." 

"  There  is  a  vast  difference,"  remarks  Fr.   Doyle  in  his 


i. — In  his  pamphlet  Retreats  for  Workers  (C.T.S.  London)  p.  13.  See  also 
the  vivid  account  of  Gilbert  Cloquet's  retreat  at  Fayt-Manag-e  in  Rene  Bazin's 
Rising  Corn,  ch.  13. 


RETREATS   FOR   THE   WORKERS  73 

own  little  pamphlet,1  "  between  the  methods  employed  and 
the  fruit  resulting  from  a  mission  and  a  retreat.  The  one 
makes  its  influence  felt  only  at  certain  hours  in  the  evening, 
the  other  at  every  hour  ;  the  first  uses  a  few  well-known 
means  of  moving  the  heart,  the  other  employs  every  act 
of  the  day,  all  directed  towards  one  definite  end  ;  in  the 
mission  it  is  the  preacher  who  does  the  work,  in  a  retreat 
the  exercitant  himself.  .  .  .  The  efficacy  of  a  retreat 
consists  in  personal  reflection,  favoured  by  the  absence  of 
all  distracting  occupations  and  the  logical  sequence  of  subjects 
treated.  Solitude,  silence  and  serious  reflection,  united  to 
fervent  prayer,  act  powerfully  upon  the  soul  and  cause  it 
to  experience  sentiments  hitherto  unknown.  .  .  It 

appeals  not  to  the  indifferent  crowd,  the  careless  liver,  but 
to  the  elite,  to  those  who  by  their  intelligence  or  influence 
are  capable  of  leading  others  by  their  example.  It  seeks 
first  for  the  upright  and  virtuous,  the  men  of  character  and 
zeal,  and  not  content  with  making  them  better  Christians, 
more  solicitous  about  their  own  salvation,  strives  to  mould 
them  into  lay  apostles." 

Fr.  Doyle  did  not  profess  to  be  an  expert  social  reformer, 
he  had  no  panacea  to  advocate  for  curing  the  ills  of  society. 
But  he  made  a  contribution  which  sprang  from  the  depths 
of  his  own  inner  experience.  He  realized  that  the  social 
problem  cannot  be  stated  as  a  duel  between  profits  and 
wages,  that  democracy  cannot  be  built  merely  on  increased 
comfort  and  amusement.  And  so  he  uttered  his  plea, 
unfortunately  premature,  that  the  ideals  of  the  workers 
should  be  raised  and  purified  and  strengthened  by  contact 
with  Christ,  the  divine  Workman  of  Nazareth.  He  knew 
that  every  toiler  is  a  person,  not  a  mere  '  hand  '  or  chattel, 
an  immortal  soul  for  whom  Christ  died.  Having  himself 
tasted  the  Saviour's  banquet,  he  proposed  to  "  go  out  quickly 
into  the  streets  and  lanes  of  the  city  and  bring  hither  the 
poor  and  the  feeble  and  the  blind  and  the  lame."  "  When 
thou  makest  a  dinner  or  a  supper,"  said  our  Lord — and  are 
not  His  words  as  applicable  to  a  spiritual  as  to  a  material 

I. — Retreats  for  Workingmen :  Why  not  in  Ireland?  (Dublin,  Irish 
Messenger  Office,  July,  1909)  pp.  8f.  It  is  worth  observing  that  this  plea  for 
retreats  \\as  penned  by  a  successful  mt'ssioner. 


74  FATHER  WILLIAM  DOYLE,   SJ. 

feast  ? — "  call  not  thy  friends  nor  thy  brethren  nor  thy 
kinsmen  nor  thy  neighbours  who  are  rich.  .  .  .  But  call 
the  poor,  the  maimed,  the  lame  and  the  blind."  It  is  these, 
after  all,  who  have  most  need  of  spiritual  experience  and 
help,  these  who,  even  in  Catholic  Ireland,  live  with  stunted 
souls  and  impoverished  bodies  in  hovels  and  tenements  and 
garrets.  Surely,  for  Fr.  Doyle's  outspoken  invitation,  we 
may  say  that  '  recompense  shall  be  made  him  at  the 
resurrection  of  the  just.'1  (S.  Luke  14.  12-21.) 

His  efforts,  however,  were  destined  to  have  no  immediate 
success,  in  spite  of  the  fact  that  he  had  a  warm  supporter 
in  his  Provincial  (Fr.  William  Delany)  who,  in  the  autumn 
of  1912,  sent  him  to  the  Continent  to  investigate.  Fr.  Doyle 
inspected  many  retreat-houses  for  workingmen  in  France, 
Belgium  and  Holland,  and  thus  gained  valuable  information 
and  experience.  Besides  the  pamphlet  already  mentioned 
there  survives  one  letter  written  at  this  time,  which  may  be 
quoted  more  for  its  personal  interest  than  for  its  relevancy 
to  the  question  of  retreats. 

"  I  have  picked  up  an  immense  amount  of  useful  infor 
mation  about  Workingmen's  Retreats  since  I  came  here. 
Everybody  has  been  kindness  itself  and  helped  me  in  every 
way.  Indeed  this  trip  has  been,  and  will  be,  of  great  service 
to  me  and  God's  work.  More  than  once  the  Hand  of  God 
was  plainly  visible  in  little  incidents  which  may  eventually 
lead  to  big  things,  the  missing  of  a  train  bringing  about  the 
chance  meeting  of  one  who  gave  me  great  help,  and  so  in 
other  ways.  When  leaving  Ireland  I  did  not  think  my 
journey  was  to  mean  so  much  for  myself  spiritually.  At 
Lourdes,  at  Tours,  at  Angers,  and  other  places,  our  dearest 
Lord  seemed  to  have  had  His  message  prepared  and  waiting 
for  me.  I  had  a  feeling  all  along  that  my  visit  to  Lisieux 
would  do  much  for  me,  and  I  was  not  mistaken  ;  so  that 
I  am  coming  home  like  a  bee  laden  with  the  honey  of  God, 
which  I  pray  Him  not  to  allow  me  to  squander  or  misuse. 
I  saw  many  interesting  places  and  things  during  my  weeks 

i. — We  can  gauge  his  intense  interest  in  the  project  from  this  entry  in  his 

diary  (20  Dec.,  1914) :    "  During  a  visit  to Church  I  felt  urged  to  promise 

our  Blessed  Lady  to  try  and  give  up  meat  on  Saturdays  in  her  honour,  if 
she  in  return  will  bring  about  the  starting  of  the  Workmen's  Retreats  this 
summer  (1915)." 


RETREATS   FOR  THE   WORKERS  75 

of  travel.  But  over  all  hung  a  big  cloud  of  sadness,  for  I 
realised  as  I  never  did  before  how  utterly  the  world  has 
forgotten  Jesus  except  to  hate  and  outrage  Him,  the  fearful, 
heart-rending  amount  of  sin  visible  on  all  sides,  and  the 
vast  work  for  souls  that  lies  before  us  priests.  My  feelings 
at  times  are  more  than  I  can  describe.  The  longing  to  make 
up  to  our  dear  Lord  for  all  He  is  suffering  is  overwhelming, 
and  I  ask  Him,  since  somehow  my  own  heart  seems  indifferent 
to  His  pleading,  to  give  me  the  power  to  do  much  and  very 
much  to  console  Him." 

In  spite  of  the  information  thus  acquired  and  the  subsequent 
propaganda  in  which  he  engaged,  funds  remained  inadequate 
and  public  opinion  seemed  unmoved.  Once,  indeed,  he  was 
very  near  success.  He  was  sent  for  by  the  Provincial  who 
told  him  that  a  suitable  residence  and  grounds  had  been 
offered  and  that  he  was  to  take  charge  of  the  first  Retreat 
House  for  Workers  in  Ireland.  A  few  days  later  the  house 
destined  for  retreats  was  burnt  down  by  suffragettes  !  And 
thus  the  project  fell  through. 

In  spite  of  this  failure  Fr.  Doyle  had  the  happiness  of 
putting  his  views  to  one  practical  test.  After  many  delays 
and  difficulties  it  was  arranged  that  he  should  give  a  three 
days'  retreat  to  the  employees  of  the  Providence  Woollen 
Mills,  Foxford,  Co.  Mayo.  Holy  Saturday  (3rd  April,  1915) 
was  selected  as  the  opening  day,  so  that  the  triduum  could 
include  the  Monday  Bank  Holiday,  on  which  day  alone  the 
School  would  be  closed  and  the  schoolrooms  available.  The 
men  did  not  at  all  appreciate  the  idea  beforehand,  they  were 
nervous  and  uneasy  at  the  novel  proposal,  and  kept  wondering 
'  what  they  were  in  for/  The  general  tone  was,  '  Really 
this  is  too  much  of  a  good  thing,  hadn't  we  a  (public)  retreat 
in  the  parish  a  few  months  ago  ?  '  Only  the  mill-workers 
(and  also  a  few  outsiders,  Pioneers)  were  invited  ;  and.  of 
course,  they  were  left  perfectly  free  to  come  or  not  as  they 
pleased.  Naturally  there  was  some  anxiety  about  the 
attendance,  but  to  the  relief  of  the  good  Sisters  of  Charity, 
a  large  number  turned  up  for  the  first  lecture.1  Each  man 
got  a  typed  copy  of  the  order  of  time.  The  day  was  well 

i. — Of  the  62  men  then  employed  in  the  Mills  60  made  the  retreat ;  these 
were  joined  by  five  others  who  petitioned  the  favour. 


76  FATHER   WILLIAM   DOYLE,   S.J. 

filled,  only  small  intervals  being  left  free.  Mass  was  at  eight 
o'clock,  there  were  four  instructions,  two  or  three  visits  to 
the  Blessed  Sacrament,  the  Stations  of  the  Cross,  a  couple 
of  rosaries,  and  some  spiritual  reading.  The  Senior  School 
which  is  bright  and  spacious  made  a  very  devotional  oratory, 
the  lower  rooms  being  free  for  reading  or  smoking.  The 
convent  garden  was  placed  at  the  exercitants'  disposal,  and 
it  was  edifying  to  see  them  walking  about  singly  or  in  silent 
groups.  The  rosary  was  said  out  of  doors  and  was  very 
impressive,  the  men  walking  in  procession  followed  by 
Fr.  Doyle,  who  recited  the  prayers  aloud.  The  brass 
instruments  of  the  Mill  Band  accompanied  the  Benediction 
Service  and  Hymns,  in  singing  which  the  whole  congregation 
joined. 

Almost  from  the  very  start  the  men  gave  evident  signs 
that  they  had  lost  all  their  awkwardness  or  suspiciousness, 
they  quickly  entered  into  the  peace  and  calm  of  this  unwonted 
spiritual  atmosphere.  "  No  man  ever  made  such  an 
impression,"  writes  one  of  the  exercitants.  "  Fr.  Doyle's 
saintly  appearance  and  attractive  manner  at  once  captured 
our  attention,  and  time  passed  so  quickly  while  he  spoke 
that  each  lecture,  though  invariably  half  an  hour,  seemed 
but  a  moment.  His  words  were  simple  and  clear,  and 
delivered  in  so  kindly  and  gentle  a  fashion  that  they  were 
just  what  he  liked  to  call  them — '  little  chats.'  We  had 
been  accustomed  to  fiery  threatening  sermons  at  missions, 
where  God's  justice  is  painted  with  so  much  eloquence, 
making  one  tremble  at  the  uncertainty  of  salvation.  But 
here  the  words  of  the  saintly  preacher  sent  us  away  with  the 
impression  :  '  How  easy  it  is  after  all  for  me  to  save  my 
soul  !  God  is  good,  He  loves  me,  and  what  He  asks  is  very 
small.'  '  One  lecture  on  Reparation  to  the  Sacred  Heart 
made  an  abiding  impression  on  the  hearers.  The  outrages 
and  insults  heaped  on  Christ  throughout  the  world  were 
vividly  depicted  by  one  who  had  seen  them  nigh,  and  were 
consolingly  contrasted  with  the  religious  mission  of  Ireland, 
whereof  every  Irish  Catholic  worker  ought  to  be  the  watchful 
custodian. 

At  the  close  of  the  retreat,  on  Easter  Tuesday  morning, 
all  the  men  went  to  Mass  and  Holy  Communion,  listened 
to  a  farewell  lecture,  assisted  at  Benediction  and  received 


RETREATS   FOR   THE   WORKERS  77 

the  Papal  Blessing.  Fr.  Doyle  then  shook  hands  with  each 
man  as  he  left  the  room,  and  by  this  simple  friendly  act 
captured  the  last  corner  of  every  heart.  The  typical  comment 
was,  '  It  was  entirely  too  short  ;  if  only  we  had  another 
day  !  '  Those  best  entitled  to  judge  state  that  the  retreat 
will  never  be  forgotten,  and  are  confident  that  the  good 
then  accomplished  will  not  be  undone.1 

The  success  of  this  retreat  shows  clearly  the  deep  spiritual 
influence  which  a  House  of  Retreats  in  or  near  Dublin  could 
exert  on  our  Catholic  workers,  who  at  present  often  find 
anti-Catholic  influences  far  more  accessible.  But  from  this 
Foxford  experiment  we  may  draw  another,  and  perhaps 
even  more  practical,  inference.  That  is,  the  possibility  of 
having,  throughout  the  country,  retreats  for  working  men 
and  women,  without  the  necessity  of  providing  special  retreat- 
houses  at  all.  Just  as  the  Sisters  at  Foxford  provided 
facilities  for  their  workers  iri  their  school  and  convent,  just 
as  the  clergy  themselves  make  their  annual  retreat  in  some 
diocesan  college  or  vacant  seminary,  so,  we  begin  to  realise,, 
could  schools  while  idle  in  vacation  time,  or  similar  institutions. 
with  available  space,  be  utilised  for  providing  occasional 
retreats  for  our  less  fortunate  brothers  and  sisters  who  toil 
in  fields  and  factories  and  live  in  hovels  and  slums.2  We 
have  provided  for  our  friends,  our  brethren,  our  kinsmen, 
and  our  neighbours  who  are  rich.  "And  the  Lord  said  :  Go 
out  into  the  highways  and  hedges  and  compel  them  to  come 
in  that  My  house  may  be  filled."  (S.  Luke  14.  23.) 

The  following  lines  were  written  by  Fr.  Charles  Plater, 
S.J.,  to  whom  more  than  anyone  else  the  introduction  of 
workers'  retreats  into  England  is  due.3  They  constitute 

i. — Fr.  Doyle  had  originally  proposed  that  the  Sisters  should  provide  board 
and  lodging  for  the  exercitants,  but  on  becoming  acquainted  with  the  local 
circumstances  he  agreed  that  this  was  unnecessary.  The  men  live  close  by. 
with  very  little  in  their  surroundings  to  distract  them  ;  and  they  are  accustomed 
to  the  bell  summoning  them  to  and  irom  their  meals.  The  full  work-time  lost 
on  the  retreat  was  \%  days  (Monday  and  portion  of  Tuesday).  The  men  were 
paid  for  this  time,  though  they  were  not  told  this  beforehand  ;  the  loss  of 
wages  was  also  made  up  to  the  women  who  were  necessarily  idle  while  the 
Mill  was  closed. 

2. — During  the  summer  vacation  (Christmas)  1918,  a  successful  retreat  was 
made  by  96  workers  in  Kew  College,  Melbourne. 

3. — In  his  Retreats  for  the  People:  A  Sketch  of  a  Great  Revival,  1912,  p.  134, 
Fr.  Plater  says  :  "  Before  regular  retreat-houses  were  established  in  England 
it  was  by  no  means  uncommon  for  Irishmen  living  in  this  country  to  go  over  to 
Ireland  for  the  purpose  of  making  a  retreat  in  a  Franciscan  friary  or  some 
other  religious  establishment." 


78  FATHER   WILLIAM   DOYLE,   SJ. 

at  once  a  sincere  tribute  from  an  intimate  fellow-worker 
and  a  straight  appeal  to  Catholic  Ireland. 

"  I  lived  for  some  years  with  big-hearted  Willie  Doyle 
and  loved  him.  We  were  seminarians  together  and  I  saw 
much  of  him.  He  was  always  bubbling  over  with  mirth 
and  generally  at  the  bottom  of  any  harmless  mischief  that 
might  be  afoot,  but  only  the  shallow-minded  could  have 
mistaken  his  gaiety  for  thoughtlessness.  Underneath  his 
mercurial  behaviour  were  steadily  glowing  ideals  and 
enthusiasm.  He  had  a  deep  and  simple  piety  and  a  burning 
love  for  Ireland. 

"After  he  left  Stony  hurst,  and  again  still  later  when  we 
were  both  priests,  we  corresponded  much  on  the  subject 
of  workers'  retreats.  His  quick  imagination  pictured  the 
immense  good  which  might  be  effected  by  their  introduction 
into  Ireland.  With  his  whole  soul  he  threw  himself  into 
the  work  of  promoting  them.  His  letters  are  just  himself. — 
ardent,  enthusiastic,  full  of  piety  and  love  of  country.  He 
would,  I  am  convinced,  gladly  have  given  his  life  to  see  the 
retreats  established  in  Ireland.  He  was  acutely  distressed 
.because  others  could  not  see  what  he  saw  so  plainly: 

'  I  did  not  write  because  I  had  nothing  but  disappoint 
ment,  opposition,  cold  shower-baths  and  crosses  to  chronicle, 
the  last  and  biggest  cross  being  the  sudden  death  of  my 
truest  supporter,  Fr.  X—  — .  Your  news  about  the  success 
in  England  is  glorious,  and  yet  I  am  assured  that  mine  will 
come  in  Dublin  if  ever  a  house  is  opened.  ...  I  am 
confident  the  real  difficulty  will  be  to  keep  the  men  out 
I  never  realised  till  I  got  on  the  mission  staff  the  immense 
amount  of  faith  and  love  for  holy  things  there  is  everywhere 
still  in  Ireland.  ...  It  has  been  a  four  years'  Calvary, 
but  yesterday  the  Resurrection,  I  hope,  began,  for  I  heard 
that  Rathfarnham  Castle  with  53  acres  has  been  purchased 
at  last,  and  I  have  the  Provincial's  promise  (when  that 
took  place)  to  allow  me  to  make  a  start  in  the  stables. 
Ye  Gods  !  Fancy  the  mighty  Doyle  preaching  in  a  stable  ! 
Very  like  the  Master  is  it  not  ?'  (May  20th,  1913). 

"  He  found  it  hard  to  be  patient  with  those  who  urged 
expense  as  an  insuperable  obstacle,  for  he  knew  that  once 


RETREATS   FOR  THE   WORKERS  79 

a  start  was  made  the  money  would  come.  The  Island  of 
Saints  would  not  allow  a  School  for  Saints  to  suffer  through 
lack  of  funds.  Again,  it  was  objected  that  Ireland  had  not 
a  large  class  of  well-paid  artisans,  who,  it  was  supposed, 
must  form  the  bulk  of  the  retreatants ;  and  here,  too, 
Willie  Doyle  saw  that  the  objection  was  groundless  as  the 
history  of  popular  retreats  had  shown.  '  Why  not  in 
Ireland  ?  '  was  the  sub-title  of  his  excellent  pamphlet  on 
Retreats  for  Workers,  and  his  challenging  question  was 
really  unanswerable. 

"There  is  only  one  possible  memorial  to  Fr.  William  Doyle, 
and  that  is  a  house  of  retreats  for  workers  in  Ireland,  That 
he  would  have  asked  for ;  indeed,  we  may  be  sure  that  he 
does  ask  for  it.  Those  to  whom  his  life  of  smiles  and  tears 
and  his  glorious  death  have  been  an  inspiration  will  surely 
help  him  to  get  it." 


(3.)    THE    HOLY    CHILDHOOD. 

From  the  notes  of  his  Long  Retreat  it  is  already  clear 
that  Fr.  Doyle  more  than  once  volunteered  for  the  foreign 
mission.1  His  wish  was  never  gratified,  unless  perhaps  we 
can  regard  as  a  foreign  mission  that  last  ministry  fulfilled 
amid  scenes  of  savagery  mingled  with  heroism.  But  he 
remained  to  the  end  intensely  interested  in  the  field  whither 
the  Lord  did  not  call  him  to  harvest.  Often  in  his  retreats2 
did  he  ask  his  hearers  to  think  of  the  great  army  of  pagans 
which  would  take  thirty-one  and  a  half  years  to  pass,  one 
per  second,  in  single  file.  Often  did  he  kindle  his  zeal  and 
increase  his  reparation  at  the  thought  of  the  sins  of  so-called 
Christians  and  the  ignorance  of  them  that  sit  in  darkness. 
Furthermore,  his  interest  in  the  foreign  missions  took  a 
very  practical -shape,  namely,  that  of  helping  the  Association 
of  the  Holy  Childhood.  This  Association,  founded  in  1843 
by  Mgr.  de  Forbin  Janson,  Bishop  of  Nancy,  has  for  its  object 

i. — See  p.  53.  He  was  so  confident  that  he  would  be  sent  to  the  Congo, 
that  he  procured  a  catechism  in  the  native  language  and  interleaved  it  with  an 
English  translation.  This  little  souvenir  still  survives  as  a  proof  of  his  practical 
and  resolute  zeal. 

2. — See  also  p.  22  of  his  pamphlet  Shall  I  be  a  Priest? 


So  FATHER   WILLIAM   DOYLE,   S.J. 

the  rescue  of  children  in  Africa  and  Asia,  who  have  been 
abandoned  and  left  to  die  by  their  parents.  By  its  means 
more  than  eighteen  million  little  babies  have  been  saved 
and  baptised  ;  most  of  these  neglected  mites  did  not  long 
survive  baptism.  The  members  help  the  work  of  the 
Association  by  their  prayers  and  offerings.  Fr.  Doyle  was 
able  to  collect  considerable  sums  by  his  zealous  and  ingenious 
methods.  He  had  attractive  cards  printed  each  with  a 
picture  of  a  rescued  babe  and  an  invitation  to  buy  a  black 
baby  for  half-a-crown,  the  purchaser  having  the  right  to 
select  the  baptismal  name  !  "  I  do  not  know,"  he  wrote 
from  the  Front  on  3ist  July,  1916,  "  if  I  told  you  that  the 
Black  Baby  Crusade,  though  now  partly  suspended,  proved 
a  great  success.  I  got  well  over  a  thousand  half-crowns  ; 
and  as  in  some  places  a  poor  child  can  be  bought  for  sixpence, 
there  should  be  a  goodly  army  of  woolly  black  souls  now 
before  the  throne  of  God.1  In  addition,  two  priests,  one 
in  Scotland,  the  other  in  Australia,  have  taken  up  my  card- 
scheme  and  are  working  it  well.  The  idea  of  buying  a  little 
godchild  from  the  slavery  of  the  devil  and  packing  it  off 
safe  to  heaven,  appeals  to  many."  Like  every  other  available 
method  of  saving  souls,  it  appealed  to  Fr.  Doyle  ;  and  he 
brought  to  it  his  characteristic  humour  and  energy. 


(4.)    VOCATIONS. 

Fr.  Doyle  was  naturally  interested  in  helping,  encouraging 
and  advising  those  who  desired  to  work  for  Christ  as  priests 
or  religious.  This  interest  he  showed  by  personal  direction 
and  correspondence  and  also  by  the  publication  of  two  simple 
little  pamphlets  which  have  had  a  phenomenal  success. 
Vocations,  issued  in  August  1913,  is  now  in  its  tenth  edition 
(looth  thousand)  ;  Shall  I  be  a  Priest  ?,  first  issued  in  March 
1915,  has  reached  its  seventh  edition  (4Oth  thousand)  ;  both 
are  published  by  the  Irish  Messenger  Office,  Dublin.  In 

i. — According-  to  the  Annals  of  the  Holy  Childhood  (Irish  Branch),  Nov.,  1917, 
p.  90,  Fr.  Doyle  "  collected  in  a  comparatively  short  time,  before  leaving- 
Ireland  as  C  F.  at  the  Front,  the  large  sum  of  nearly  £200  'to  buy  black 
babies '  for  God." 


VOCATIONS  8r 

the  second  last  letter  he  ever  wrote,  sent  to  his  father  from 
the  Front,  on  25th  July,  1917,  he  gives  an  interesting  account 
of  how  he  came  to  write  the  brochure  on  Vocations.  The 
letter  itself  is  headed  "  bits  and  scraps  for  an  old  man's 
breakfast,"  it  was  hastily  written  in  the  open  air  and  expressed 
in  good-humored  homely  language  for  a  father  whom  he 
tenderly  loved  and  who,  he  knew,  was  interested  in  every 
detail  of  what  he  did. 

"  You  will  be  glad  to  know,  as  I  was,  that  the  ninth  edition 
(90,000  copies)  of  my  little  book  Vocations  is  rapidly  being 
exhausted.  After  my  ordination,  when  I  began  to  be  con 
sulted  on  this  important  subject,  I  was  struck  by  the  fact 
that  there  was  nothing  one  could  put  into  the  hands  of  boys 
and  girls  to  help  them  to  a  decision,  except  ponderous 
volumes,  which  they  would  scarcely  read.  Even  the  little 
treatise  by  St.  Liguori  which  Fr.  Charles  gave  me  during 
my  first  visit  to  Tullabeg,  and  which  changed  the  whole 
current  of  my  thoughts,  was  out  of  print.  I  realized  the 
want  for  some  time;  but  one  evening  as  I  walked  back  to 
the  train  after  dining  with  you,  the  thought  of  the  absolute 
necessity  for  such  a  book  seized  me  so  strongly,  (I  could 
almost  point  out  the  exact  spot  on  the  road),  that  there  and 
then  I  made  up  my  mind  to  persuade  someone  to  write  it,  for 
I  never  dreamt  of  even  attempting  the  task  myself. 

"  I  soon  found  out  that  the  shortest  way  to  get  a  thing 
done  is  to  do  it  yourself,  or  rather  God  in  His  goodness  had 
determined  to  make  use  of  me,  because  I  was  lacking  in  the 
necessary  qualifications,  to  get  His  work  done,  for  I  am 
firmly  convinced  that  both  in  Vocations  and  Shall  I  be  a 
Priest  ?  my  part  consisted  in  the  correction  of  the  proof 
sheets  and  in  the  clawing  in  of  the  shower  of  '  bawbees.' 

"  I  remember  well  when  the  MSS. — which  does  not 
stand  for  '  Mrs  '  as  Brother  Frank  Hegarty  read  out  once 
in  Clongowes  :  'St.  Jerome  went  off  to  Palestine  carrying 
his  Missus  ' — had  passed  the  censors  to  my  great  surprise, 
the  venerable  manager  of  the  Messenger  Office  began  shaking 
his  head  over  the  prospect  of  its  selling,  for  as  he  said  with 
truth,  '  It  is  a  subject  which  appeals  to  a  limited  few.'  He 
decided  to  print  5,000,  and  hinted  I  might  buy  them  all 
myself  ! 


82  FATHER   WILLIAM   DOYLE,   S  J. 

"  Then  when  the  pamphlet  began  to  sell  and  orders  to  come 
in  fast,  I  began  to  entertain  the  wild  hope  that  by  the  time 
I  reached  the  stage  of  two  crutches  and  a  long  white  beard, 
I  might  possibly  see  the  100,000  mark  reached.  We  are 
nearly  at  that  now  without  any  pushing  or  advertising,  and 
I  hope  the  crutches  and  flowing  beard  are  still  a  long  way 
off.  God  is  good,  is  He  not  ?  As  the  second  edition  came 
out  only  in  the  beginning  of  1914  the  sale  has  been  extra 
ordinarily  rapid 

"  It  is  consoling  from  time  to  time  to  receive  letters  from 
convents  or  religious  houses,  saying  that  some  novice  had 
come  to  them  chiefly  through  reading  Vocations ;  for 
undoubtedly  there  are  many  splendid  soldiers  lost  to  Christ's 
army  for  the  want  of  a  little  help  and  encouragement.  .  .  . 
A  welcome  gift  from  a  benefactor,  not  a  benefactress  this 
time,  has  just  reached  me  in  the  shape  of  a  donation  of  £3 
to  distribute  a  thousand  free  copies  of  Vocations.  The  donor 
believes  that  if  one  cannot  oneself  volunteer  for  the  war, 
the  next  best  thing  is  to  try  to  get  someone  else  to  do  so. 
One  never  can  tell  into  what  generous  heart  the  good  seed 
may  fall,  or  the  number  of  souls  that  possibly  may  be  saved 
by  this  distribution.  May  God  bless  him  and  send  along 
a  thousand  more  imitators,  for  '  the  harvest  is  great  and  the 
labourers  few '  said  our  Blessed  Lord,  and  He  ought 
to  know  !  " 

The  success  of  this  unpretentious  little  pamphlet,  written 
without  any  affectation  of  style  or  erudition,  demonstrated 
very  clearly  the  untold  good  that  can  be  done  by  instructive 
and  devotional  literature,  Fr.  Doyle  never  intended  to 
become  an  author,  and  modestly  felt  that  he  was  not  equipped 
for  literary  or  theological  expositions.  But  as  abler  men 
seemed  unable  to  write  for  ordinary  souls  or  preferred  to 
criticise  the  ventures  of  others,  he;  felt  it  his  duty  to  put 
down  in  clear  simple  language  the  thoughts  and  ideals  for 
which  he  himself  lived  and  worked.  And  he  was  more  than 
justified  by  the  spiritual  harvest  he  reaped  thereby.  Besides 
the  letter  just  quoted  there  are  in  his  correspondence  many 
other  references  to  the  results  of  his  pamphlet.  Thus  he 
writes  on  one  occasion  :  "I  have  just  had  a  visit  from  a 
'  rich  young  lady,'  a  perfect  stranger  to  me,  whose  eyes  have 


VOCATIONS  83 

been  opened  by  reading  Vocations.  I  have  had  two  or  three 
cases  like  this  recently ;  which  is  ample  reward  for  the 
trouble  the  book  cost  me."  "  My  little  book  on  Vocations," 
he  says  in  another  letter,  "  has  brought  me  a  good  deal  of 

consolation  lately.  The  Superior  of  X told  me  they 

had  at  least  two  novices  whose  thoughts  had  been  first  directed 
to  religious  life  by  reading  the  pamphlet  and  that  another, 
whose  vocation  was  due  in  great  measure  to  the  book,  was 
expected  in  a  few  days  from  Australia.  Yesterday  I  had 

a  letter  from  the  Fathers  in  London  telling  me  several 

of  their  young  men  had  been  led  to  take  the  final  step  by  the 
same  means.  Some  time  ago  a  Lutheran,  recently  received 
into  the  Church,  wrote  from  New  York  saying  that  the 
pamphlet  had  appealed  to  him  so  much  that  he  was  now 
studying  for  the  priesthood.  This  is  encouraging  and  proves 
what  I  have  always  held,  that  there  are  vocations  in 
abundance  if  only  they  were  helped  a  little." 

The  unexpected  success  of  Vocations  led  Fr.  Doyle  to  write 
another  pamphlet  to  which  he  gave  the  title  Shall  I  be  a 
Priest  ?  It  was  written  with  simple  direct  fervour  and  would 
serve  equally  as  a  consideration  for  priests  on  the  dignity 
of  the  sacerdotal  office  or  as  a  help  to  a  diffident  aspirant. 
The  frontispiece  represents  a  little  child  knocking  at  the 
tabernacle-door  and  saying,  '  Jesus,  I  want  to  be  a  holy 
priest.'  The  appropriateness  of  all  this  will  be  understood 
from  the  following  letter.  "  It  is  not  mine  but  Jesus'  alone," 
he  wrote,  "  for  every  word  seemed  to  come  from  the 
Tabernacle  before  which  I  wrote  it,  the  greater  part  on  the 
altar  itself.1  Nominally  it  is  written  for  boys,  but  in  reality 
I  have  tried  to  give  a  message  to  my  fellow-priests,  and  at 
the  same  time  to  stir  up  greater  love  and  reverence  in  the 
hearts  of  all  who  may  read  it.  Its  defects  are  many,  because 
such  a  subject  would  require  the  pen  of  an  archangel.  But 
I  feel  Jesus  will  bless  the  tiny  book  and  make  it  do 
His  work." 

While  Fr.  Doyle  was  working  with  superhuman  energy 
as  military  chaplain,  he  kept  planning  some  further 
pamphlets.  Except  the  titles — Union  with  God,  Letters  to 

i.— Compare  The  Priest  of  the  Eucharist  [P£re  Eymard],  Eng.  tr.  1881,  p.  22. 


84  FATHER  WILLIAM   DOYLE,   S.J. 

One  who  is  Hesitating,  Spiritual  Communion,  An  Explanation 
of  the  Priest's  Actions  at  Mass — he  committed  nothing  to 
writing  except  the  following  few  jottings,  hastily  scribbled 
while  crouching  in  some  dug-out.  As  they  refer  to  the  subject 
of  vocations,  they  may  be  here  inserted. 


"  Vocation  Letters." 

"  i  Escape  from  world.  Christ  said  '  I  pray  not  for  the 
world.'  Eagerness  to  get  away  from  plague,  infected  places. 

2  Every  action,    step    done  for  God.      Three  things  in 
prayer  :    merit,  satisfaction,  and  impetration. 

3  Fear  of  unhappiness.     Bernadette  :    '  I  do  not  promise 
to  make  you  happy  in  this  world.'     '  Ought  not  Christ  to 
have  suffered  ?  ' 

4  Joy  of  sacrifice  ;    when  made,  great  joy  after  fear. 

5  End.    '  Well  done,  good  servant.'    Real  life  is  to  come. 

6  '  Could  do  more  good  in  world.'     Many  Masses,   fast, 
works  of  zeal,  sacrifice  of  will  greater  than  all. 

7  Cutting  on  Pagan  Religious  Orders  ;    no  vocation,  yet 
perseverance  ;    penitents  to  help. 

8  Don  Bosco  refused  300  foundations  for  want  of  subjects 
(nuns),  also  Angers, 

9  A  good  religious  experiences  more  pleasure  and  con 
solation  from  a  single  pious  exercise  such  as  Mass,  visit  to 
the  Blessed  Sacrament,  than  people  of  the  world  take.     .     . 
(Ven.  Fr.  Champagnat.)  " 

Fr.  Doyle's  interest  in  vocations  was  not  confined  merely 
to  literary  advocacy.  He  was  always  generously  ready  with 
personal  advice  and  assistance.  He  helped  a  very  large 
number  of  girls  to  enter  religious  houses  and  a  not  incon 
siderable  number  of  boys  to  enter  religion  or  to  prepare  for 
the  priesthood.  Many  a  visit  did  he  pay  to  convents,  many 
were  the  letters  he  wrote  in  his  efforts  to  '  place  '  vocations. 
When  Ireland  failed,  he  tried  England,  and  even  America, 
Australia,  and  South  Africa.  Once  he  was  satisfied  that  a 
true  vocation  existed,  he  could  not  be  disheartened  by  any 
temporal  disabilities.1  An  interesting  and  ingenious  scheme 

i. — He  got  one  girl  with  a  wooden  leg  and  another 'with  a  paralysed  left 
hand  into  American  convents.  Both  are  now  professed  and  are  doing-  good 
work. 


VOCATION    LETTERS  85 

which  he  started,  while  on  leave  from  the  Front,  may  be 
best  indicated  in  his  own  words  (in  a  letter  to  his  father 
dated  25  July,  1917)  : 

"  I  do  not  know  if  I  have  told  you  of  a  scheme  which  I 
have  in  my  mind  to  help  poor  boys  who  are  anxious  to  be 
priests.  Before  the  war  I  came  in  contact  with  a  number 
of  very  respectable  lads  and  young  men,  whose  one  desire 
was  to  work  for  God  and  the  salvation  of  souls,  but  who, 
for  want  of  means,  were  not  able  to  pursue  their  studies. 
I  was  able  to  help  some  of  them  and  get  them  free  places 
in  America  or  England,  with  a  couple  at  Mungret,  but  the 
number  of  applicants  was  far  in  excess  of  the  resources. 

"  One  day  having  successfully  negotiated  or  missed  a 
couple  of  shells,  I  was  struck  instead  by  a  happy  idea.  I  was 
coming  home  on  leave  and  made  up  my  mind  to  make  an 
experiment  with  my  new  idea,  which  was  this.  I  gave  a 
little  talk  to  the  Sodality  of  the  Children  of  Mary  in  a  certain 
convent  in  Dublin  on  the  need  for  priests  at  the  present 
time,  and  what  a  glorious  work  it  was  to  help  even  a  single 
lad  to  become  one  of  the  '  Lord's  Anointed.'  I  told  them 
how  many  were  longing  for  this  honour,  and  suggested  that 
they  should  adopt  some  poor  boy  and  pay  for  his  education 
until  lie  was  ordained.  Two  hundred  girls  subscribing  5/- 
a  year  would  provide  £50,  more  than  enough  for  the  purpose. 
I  suggested  that  this  money  ought  to  be  the  result  of  some 
personal  sacrifice,  working  overtime,  making  a  hat  or  dress 
last  longer,  etc.,  but  as  a  last  resource  they  might  collect 
the  5/-  or  some  of  it. 

"  The  idea  was  taken  up  most  warmly  :  nearly  all  the 
money  for  this  year  is  paid  in,  though  the  girls  are  nearly 
all  factory  hands,  and  the  lucky  boy  will  begin  his  college 
course  in  September.  I  am  hoping  '  when  the  cruel  war 
is  o'er  '  to  get  the  other  convents  to  follow  suit ;  for  the 
scheme  is  simple  and  no  great  burden  on  any  one,  and  is 
a  ready  solution  of  the  financial  difficulty  and  should  bring 
joy  to  many  a  boy's  heart.  Certain  difficulties  naturally 
suggest  themselves,  but  I  think  we  may  safely  count  a  little 
at  least  on  our  Blessed  Lord's  help,  since  the  work  is  being 
done  for  Him,  and  go  on  with  confidence." 

How  dear  this  scheme  was  to  Fr.  Doyle  may  be  gathered 


86  FATHER  WILLIAM  DOYLE,   SJ. 

from  this  entry  in  his  diary  :  "  May  24th  (1917).  Feast  of 
Notre  Dame  Auxiliatrice,  who  helped  Don  Bosco  so  much 
in  his  work  for  young  priests.  I  formally  to-day  made 
Mary  the  Protectress  of  the  work  which  I  am  beginning  for 
her  young  priests." 

It  will  be  convenient  to  mention  here  Fr.  Doyle's  translation 
of  the  Life  of  P£re  Ginhac  by  A.  Calvet,  S.J.  "  Printer 
after  printer  refused  to  have  anything  to  do  with  the  book," 
he  wrote,  "  though  I  staked  Fr.  Ginhac's  reputation  that  it 
would  prove  a  financial  success."  Finally  Messrs.  R.  and  T. 
Washbourne  undertook  to  produce  the  work,  and  it  appeared 
in  1914  as  A  Man  after  God's  Own  Heart  :  Life  of  Father 
Paul  Ginhac,  S.J.  When  Fr.  Doyle  heard  that  the  price 
was  fixed  at  8/6  net,  he  thought  that  the  sale  was  killed 
for  "  not  many  people  would  care  to  invest  such  a  sum  in 
the  life  of  a  man  no  one  had  ever  heard  of."  But  to  his 
astonishment  900  copies  went  through  in  the  first  year,  and 
up  to  December  1916  altogether  1,244  copies  had  been  sold. 
"  Pere  Ginhac,"  he  wrote  to  his  father,  "  has  certainly  worked 
this  miracle  if  he  never  did  anything  else  ;  and  I  am  beginning 
to  think  he  is  not  a  bad  sort  of  an  old  chap,  even  though 
he  looked  so  desperately  in  need  of  a  square  meal  !  " 
Fr.  Ginhac's  portrait  certainly  represents  him  as  cadaverous 
and  grim-visaged,  a  contrast  with  his  admirer  and  translator, 
whose  mortified  life  was  never  allowed  to  interfere  with  his 
buoyant  naturalness  and  irrepressible  spirit  of  fun.  The 
book  seems  to  have  impressed  and  helped  many  readers, 
for  Fr.  Doyle  continues  :  "I  have  had  a  pile  of  letters  from 
all  parts  of  the  world — Alaska,  Ceylon,  South  Africa,  etc. — 
asking  for  relics  and  mentioning  many  favours  received 
through  the  holy  father's  intercession  ;  so  that  the  labour 
of  getting  out  the  volume  (and  it  was  not  light)  has  brought 
its  own  reward."  Thus  wrote  Fr.  Doyle  a  month  before 
his  death.  Little  did  he  dream  that  his  own  life  would  be 
written,  and  that  his  influence  would  be  mingled  with  that 
of  his  fellow-religious  whom  he  helped  to  make  known 
to  others. 


Father  Doyle  at  the  Age  of  Fifteen. 


INNER  LIFE:   INTRODUCTION  87 

CHAPTER  VI. 
INNER    LIFE 

(i.)   INTRODUCTION. 

IT  is  not  as  a  successful  missioner  nor  as  a  zealous  director 
that  Fr.  Doyle  chiefly  merits  our  attention  and  study. 
The  main  interest  of  this  biography  is  within,  in  the 
inner  life  of  the  soul.  Exteriorly  there  was  little  remarkable 
in  his  career.  Many  another  missionary  has  reaped  a  more 
abundant  harvest,  many  other  directors  have  been  far  more 
skilled  in  moral  and  mystical  theology.  Doubtless,  too, 
there  are  in  our  midst  many  unrecognised  saints  whose  hidden 
interior  life  is  precious  in  the  sight  of  God  and  would  be 
deemed  glorious  by  men  if  they  but  knew  it.  But  it  is  our 
good  fortune  that  we  can  in  the  case  of  Fr.  Doyle  read,  at 
least  partially,  the  record  of  his  true  life  ;  we  can  view  his 
career  not  only  as  men  saw  it,  but,also  as  it  appeared  to  God 
and  to  himself.  And  to  appreciate  his  life  at  its  real  value 
we  must  forget  altogether  that  adventitious  halo  of  earthly 
glory  which  lit  up  its  last  phase.  It  is  most  important  for 
us  to  avoid  placing  his  war-experience  in  false  perspective 
or  attributing  to  it  an  exaggerated  importance.  Whatever 
the  world  may  think,  his  life  would  have  been  just  as  glorious 
and  heroic  had  he  never  volunteered  to  do  Christ's  work 
on  the  battlefield.  His  life  was  a  spiritual  combat,  an  unseen 
war  against  all  that  is  ignoble  and  evil ;  it  needs  not  the 
fame  that  is  won  on  fields  of  carnage.  His  service  as  a 
military  chaplain  did  but  serve  to  bring  out  his  latent  heroism, 
it  showed  to  men  the  virtue  which  had  already  been  acquired 
in  the  quiet  of  a  religious  house.  Thus  Fr.  Doyle's  life  at 
the  Front  may  well  serve  to  disarm  the  prejudice  of  those 
who  otherwise  might  be  tempted  to  despise  the  little  ups 
and  downs,  the  prayers  and  penances,  the  resolutions  and 
aspirations,  which  in  this  case  are  seen  to  be  the  inner  facet 
of  what  is  outwardly  admirable.  His  work  for  the  soldiers 


SS  FATHER   WILLIAM   DOYLE,   SJ. 

was,  of  course,  wonderfully  fruitful ;  his  zealous  ministry 
ended  as  it  began,  in  Belgium.  And  one  can  hardly  help 
feeling  that  his  death  was  God's  answer  to  his  lifelong  prayer 
for  martyrdom.  Nevertheless,  the  centre  of  Fr.  Doyle's 
life  is  within,  and  its  significance  for  us  is  quite  independent 
of  its  chance  relation  to  human  warfare.  One  great  benefit 
indeed  we  owe  to  his  military  chaplaincy  :  the  fact  that  he 
had  not  an  opportunity  of  destroying  his  spiritual  notes.  It 
is  from  these  precious  relics  and  from  a  few  very  intimate 
letters  that  we  can  piece  together  some  of  the  special 
characteristics  and  methods  of  his  spiritual  life. 

The  predominant  impression  which  is  left  after  perusal  of 
these  papers  is  that  Fr.  Doyle  is  wonderfully  true  to  type — 
he  is  of  the  race  of  Jesuit  heroes.  He  has  his  own 
particularities,  of  course,  even  peculiarities  ;  but  he  is  unmis 
takably  similar  to  his  spiritual  forbears.  For  instance,  the 
Jesuit  pioneer  missionaries  of  North  America  were  men 
whose  great  achievements  are  written  in  the  annals  of 
civilisation,  discovery,  and  ethnology.  They  were  heroes, 
who  for  Christ  left  the  fair  land  of  France  and  buried  them 
selves  in  the  woods  with  savage  Algonquins  and  Hurons, 
eating  their  coarse  sagamite  or  oftener  starving  with  them, 
shouldering  the  same  burdens,  living  in  the  filth  and  vermin 
of  their  tepees,  travelling  over  snow  and  ice,  meeting  not 
seldom  with  blasphemy  and  obscenity.  Slow  calculated 
heroism  such  as  this  is  not  a  sudden  inspiration  or  a  wild 
access  of  emotion  ;  it  is  the  outcome  of  deep  purposive 
thought  and  painful  methodic  effort  co-operating  with  grace. 
The  End  of  Man,  the  Kingdom  of  Christ,  the  Two  Standards, 
.  .  .  .  slowly  step  by  step  does  Ignatius  train  Christ's 
captains ;  and  slowly,  day  by  day,  in  humdrum  routine 
and  endless  trivialities  of  self-mastery,  do  his  sons  develop 
the  souls  of  heroes.  John  de  Brebeuf,  gloriously  martyred 
on  i6th  March,  1649,  used  as  a  novice  to  declare  :  "I  will  be 
ground  to  powder  rather  than  break  a  rule."  Only  to  those 
who  miss  the  inner  -key  will  this  seem  a  curious  preparation 
for  foreign  mission  and  martyrdom.  Pere  Enemond  Masse" 
(f  1646),  another  pioneer  missionary,  to  prepare  himself  for 
his  apostolate  in  Canada,  "  whose  conversion  can  be  under 
taken  only  by  those  who  have  on  them  the  stigmata  of  the 


INNER  LIFE:   INTRODUCTION  89 

cross,"  made  some  reso  utions  which  were  found  among  his 
papers  after  death.  As  they  help  to  reveal  the  spiritual 
affinities  of  Fr.  Doyle,  they  will  be  here  recorded  : 

"  i.  Never  to  sleep  except  on  bare  ground,  without  sheets 
or  mattress — which  however  must  be  kept  in  the  room  so 
that  no  one  may  know  what  is  being  done. 

2.  Not  to  wear  linen  except  round  the  neck. 

3.  Never  to  say  Mass  without  a  hair-shirt,  in  order  to 
make  me  think  of  the  sufferings  of  my  Master,  of  which  the 
Holy  Sacrifice  is  the  great  memorial. 

4.  To  take  the  discipline  daily. 

5.  Never  to  take  dinner  unless  I  have  first    made    my 
examen,  and  if  prevented  to  eat  only  a  dessert. 

6.  Never  to  gratify  my  taste. 

7.  To  fast  three  times  a  week,  but  so  that  no  one  will 
know  it."1 

Exactly  similar  detailed  resolutions  are  to  be  found  in 
nearly  every  page  of  Fr.  Doyle's  notes.  His  aspirations  for 
holiness  were  never  vague  or  unpractical.2  During  his  1909 
Retreat  he  wrote  : 

"  It  seems  to  me  the  best  and  most  practical  resolution 
I  can  make  in  this  retreat  is  to  determine  to  perform  each 
action  with  the  greatest  perfection.  This  will  mean  a 
constant  '  going  against  self/  ever  agenda  contra,  at  every 
moment  and  every  single  day.  I  have  a  vast  field  to  cover 
in  my  ordinary  daily  actions,  e.g.  to  say  the  Angelus  always 
with  the  utmost  attention  and  fervour.  I  feel,  too,  that 
Jesus  asks  this  from  me,  as  without  it  there  can  be  no  real 
holiness." 

There  follows,  at  the  end  of  these  retreat-notes,  a  huge 
sheaf  of  resolutions.  Unfortunately,  some  of  the  pages  having 
been  torn  out  or  lost,  the  first  thirty  resolutions  cannot  be 
ascertained.  Those  we  know  are  formidable  enough. 


i. — T.  Campbell,  S.J^  Pioneer  Priests  of  North  America,  vol.  ii.  (Among  the 
Hurons),  p.  59.  Fr.  Campbell  adds  :  "  The  eighth  is  to  punish  any  uncharitable 
word  that  might  escape  his  lips.  Those  lips  were  made  to  pay  a  penalty  which 
•we  prefer  to  omit." 

2.— See  also  pp.  35,  43,  49. 


90  FATHER   WILLIAM   DOYLE,  SJ, 

[RESOL  UTIONS.J 

"  31.  God  wants  the  sacrifice  of  never  going  to  plays, 
concerts,  cinematographs,  football  matches,  or  any  sight  for 
pure  gratification. 

32.  With   the   boys   absolute   meekness,   gentleness,    and 
patience. 

33.  Never  speak  about  your  worries,  troubles,  amount  of 
work. 

34.  Do  not  let  an  unkind,   angry  or  uncharitable  word 
pass  your  lips. 

35.  Don't  complain  of  others  or  of  anything  else. 

36.  Always  be  most  punctual. 

37.  Great  fidelity  to  your  own  order  of  time,  doing  every 
thing  at  the  hour  fixed. 

38.  If  possible  say  all  the  Office  on  your  knees  before  the 
Blessed  Sacrament. 

39.  Never  give  yourself  relief  in  small  sufferings. 

40.  When  in  pain  or  unwell,  try  and  not  let  others  know 
it.     Hence  never  say  you  have  a  headache,   etc. 

41.  Wear  hair-shirt  for  (erasure). 

42.  You   have   promised   never   deliberately   to   waste    a 
moment  of  time. 

43.  Legs  or  feet  not  to  be  crossed. 

44.  Do  not  read  letters  for  some  time  after  receiving  them. 

45.  Be  very  observant  about  the  rule  of  silence. 

46.  .The  constant  mortification  of  intense  fervour  at  each 
little  duty. 

In  general :  (a)  never  do  anything  you  would  like  ;  (6) 
deny  yourself  every  gratification  ;  (c)  deny  yourself  every 
pleasure  ;  (d)  do  the  thing  because  it  is  hard  ;  (e)  in  all  things 
agere  contra. 

Vince  Teipsum. 

February  2nd,  1909. 


INNER  LIFE:   INTRODUCTION  91 

Other  Mortifications  :— 

1.  1,000  ejaculations  morning  and  night. 

2.  Do  not  look  at  pictures,  advertisements  on  hoardings. 

3.  Do  not  look  into  shop  windows." 

This  is  rather  an  elaborate  programme.  With  increasing 
spiritual  strategy,  Fr.  Doyle  never  again  attempted  fifty 
resolutions  at  once.  Gradually  he  directed  all  his  efforts  to 
prayer  and  penance,  and  concentration  on  the  passing  act. 
Thus  he  records  during  his  1910  Retreat  : 

'  What  is  my  special  end,  for  which  God  made  me  ?  More 
and  more  each  retreat  I  see  what  this  is,  always  the  same 
thought,  always  the  same  desire  and  longing  for  holiness. 
God  wants  sanctity  from  me.  This  is  to  be  acquired  chiefly 
by  three  means  :  (i)  constant  little  acts  of  mortification  ; 
(2)  constant  aspirations  ;  (3)  perfection  of  each  action,  even 
the  odd  Hail  Marys." 

We  have  here  in  three  lines  the  chief  characteristics  or 
methods  of  Fr.  Doyle's  spirituality  for  the  remaining  years 
of  his  life.  There  is  henceforth  perceptible  a  remarkable 
consistency  in  his  inner  life.  Clearly  he  had,  with  God's 
help,  found  those  particular  devices  or  modes  of  spiritual 
activity  which  suited  his  mind  and  character.  Prayer, 
mortification  and  concentration  are  more  or  less  incumbent 
on  all  of  us.  It  does  not  follow  that  the  special  forms  in 
which  these  ideals  took  shape  in  Fr.  Doyle's  life  are  suitable 
to  all.  '  There  are  diversities  of  graces  but  the  same 
Spirit  .  .  .  and  there  are  diversities  of  operations  but 
the  same  God  worketh  all  in  all."  (/.  Corinth.  12.  4.)  Each  of 
us  has  his  own  individuality,  just  as  each  has  his  own 
particular  mission  ;  through  the  gates  of  life  and  death  we 
all  pass  one  by  one.  Even  the  members  of  the  same  family 
or  community  will  differ  considerably  in  aptitude  for  prayer, 
in  visualising  faculty,  in  spiritual  gifts,  in  devotional 
attractions,  in  physical  powers.  God  calls  each  of  us 
individually,  not  as  it  were  anonymously  and  in  a  crowd. 
"  He  calleth  His  own  sheep  by  name."  (S.  John  10.  3.) 


92  FATHER   WILLIAM   DOYLE,   S.J. 


(2.)  INTERIOR   UNION. 

Fr.  Doyle  had  an  extraordinarily  vivid  realisation  of  the 
spiritual  world.  In  his  life  there  is  no  trace  of  any  doubts 
against  faith.  God  was  intensely  real  to  him  and  prayer 
seemed  to  be  an  actual  colloquy.  Holiness  appeared 
'  natural '  to  him,  not  in  the  sense  that  he  found  or  made 
it  easy,  but  inasmuch  as  it  alone  satisfied  his  yearnings  and 
ideals.  Thus  he  writes  during  his  1909  Retreat  in  preparation 
for  his  Final  Vows : 

"  I  feel  within  me  a  constant  desire  or  craving  for  holiness, 
a  longing  for  prayer  and  a  great  attraction  for  mortification. 
Even  walking  along  the  streets  I  feel  God  tugging  at  my 
heart  and,  in  a  sweet  loving  way,  urging,  urging,  urging 
me  to  give  myself  up  absolutely  to  Him  and  His  service. 
Over  and  over  again  I  say,  '  My  God,  I  will  become  a  saint 
since  You  ask  it.'  But  there  is  no  progress,  no  real  effort. 
The  truth  is,  I  am  afraid  of  the  sacrifice,  afraid  of  doing 
what  God  wants  ;  and  I  delude  myself  into  thinking  I  am 
doing  God's  will  and  satisfying  Him  by  an  empty  promise. 
What  an  abuse  of  grace  !  This  cannot  go  on.  I  feel  there 
must  be  a  change  now  in  this  retreat,  an  absolute  surrender 
to  all  God  wants." 

It  was  especially  during  his  retreats  that  he  found  God's 
voice  clear  and  insistent  in  his  soul.  "  I  am  beginning  my 
own  retreat  to-morrow,"  he  wrote  in  1914.  "  I  long  for  this 
time  all  the  year  until  it  comes,  and  then  dread  it.  I  am 
afraid  of  Jesus  !  It  is  a  tremendous  thing  to  be  alone  with 
Him  for  eight  whole  days,  listening  to  His  voice,  drinking 
in  His  love — and  then  to  think  I  may  not  go  and  do  His 
bidding  !  "  Just  after  this  retreat  he  wrote  to  an  intimate 
correspondent  :  "  My  own  retreat  was  a  happy  time.  It  is 
the  one  little  oasis  in  my  wandering  life,  when  I  can  really 
be  alone  with  Jesus.  The  chief  feature  of  it  was  a  feeling 
as  if  He  were  giving  me  great  strength  to  face  His  work  and 
an  increase  of  courage  and  confidence.  In  former  retreats 
I  used  to  suffer  from  a  strange  fear  of  our  dear  Lord,  a  fear 
that  He  might  really  make  me  see  what  He  wanted  ;  in  my 


INTERIOR   UNION  93 

cowardice  I  dreaded  that.  In  this  last  retreat  this  dread 
was  absent  in  great  measure,  and  help  has  come  from  the 
thought  that  everything  will  be  His  doing,  not  mine." 

Even  outside  retreat-time  he  often  records  for  his  own  use 
inspirations  received  in  prayer,  especially  before  the  Blessed 
Sacrament.  For  instance,  on  i6th  June,  1912,  he  writes  : 
"  I  felt  the  presence  of  Jesus  very  near  to  me  while  praying 
in  the  chapel  at  Ramsgrange.  He  seemed  to  want  me  to 
write  down  what  He  said  :  '  I  want  you,  my  child,  to  abandon 
every  gratification,  generously,  absolutely,  for  the  love  of 
Me.  Each  time  you  give  in  to  yourself  you  suffer  an  enormous 
loss.  Do  ,not  deceive  yourself  by  thinking  that  certain 
relaxations  are  necessary  or  will  help  your  work.  My  grace 
is  sufficient  for  you.  Give  Me  all  at  all  times  ;  never  come 
down  from  the  cross  to  which  I  have  nailed  you.  Be  generous, 
go  on  blindly,  accepting  all,  denying  yourself  all.  Trust  in 
Me,  I  will  sustain  you,  but  only  if  you  are  really  generous. 
Begin  this  moment  and  mortify  every  look,  action, 
desire.  No  gratification,  no  relaxation,  no  yielding  to 
self.  Surrender  yourself  to  Me  as  My  victim  and  let  Me 
make  you  a  saint.'  '  Certainly  not  the  kind  of  message 
one's  imagination  would  take  pleasure  in  conjuring  up  ! 

Of  such  messages  from  our  Lord  we  have  only  the  bare 
record,  written  for  God's  eye  and  the  writer's.  Whether 
they  were  vivid  lights  in  prayer  or  whether  they  took  the 
form  of  mystical  locutions,  we  cannot  tell.  At  any  rate, 
they  were  a  powerful  incitement  to  holiness.  In  accordance 
with  Fr.  Doyle's  impulsively  generous  nature,  these 
inspirations  came  at  times  very  suddenly.  Thus  the  next 
entry  in  his  diary  (loth  July,  1912)  is  as  follows  :  "  I  awoke 
in  the  middle  of  the  night  with  the  feeling  that  Jesus 
wanted  me.  I  resisted,  but  at  last  got  out  of  bed.  At 
the  foot  of  the  altar  I  was  thinking  of  something  else, 
when  suddenly  He  seemed  to  remind  me  of  my  prayer, 
'  Jesus  come  and  dwell  within  my  heart  as  in  a  tabernacle/ 
I  felt  Him  urging  me  to  this  close  union  and  He  seemed 
to  promise  me  that  He  would  remain  with  me  '  from  Com 
munion  to  Communion  '*  if  only  I  was  recollected,  but  that 

i. — So  also  Sceur  Gertrude-Marie — Legueu,  Une  mystique  de  nos  jours,  1910, 
pp.  193,  196. 


94  FATHER  WILLIAM   DOYLE,   SJ. 

I  would  easily  drive  Him  away  by  unfaithfulness  especially 
in  want  of  guard  over  my  eyes." 

Often,  too,  Fr.  Doyle  would  write  down,  as  he  knelt  before 
the  Tabernacle,  a  detailed  message  which  he  felt  Christ  was 
speaking  to  his  soul.1  This  entry  in  his  diary,  made  on 
ist  April,  1914,  gives  us  an  idea  of  the  heroic  urgings  which 
he  experienced  in  prayer : 

"  I  begin  to-day  my  twenty-fourth  year  in  the  Society, 
with  a  heart  full  to  overflowing  with  gratitude  for  my 
vocation.  I  write  this  before  my  Jesus  in  the  Tabernacle 
and  I  have  asked  Him  to  make  me  note  down  what  He  wants 
from  me 

"  Jesus  says  :  (i)  I  want  you  to  trust  Me  more  :  you  are 
too  much  afraid  of  injuring  your  health  by  doing  what  I 
ask  of  you  e.g.  rising  at  night,  sleeping  on  boards,  taking  no 
butter,  etc.  I  would  not  urge  these  things  so  much  if  I  did 
not  want  them  from  you.  Trust  Me  more,  My  child.  Have 
I  not  helped  you  to  do  many  things  you  thought  impossible 
and  have  you  suffered  for  it  ?  (2)  I  want  you  also  to  be 
My  '  Suffering  Love,'  never  content  unless  you  are  making 
some  sacrifice.  You  have  not  given  Me  all  yet,  though  you 
know  I  want  it,  and  until  you  do  so,  I  cannot  give  you  the 
marvellous  graces  I  have  destined  for  your  soul.  Be  brave, 
be  generous,  but  do  not  delay.  There  is  joy  in  crucifixion. 
(3)  I  want  this  year  to  be  one  of  profound  recollection 
and  intense  union  with  Me.  I  have  promised  to  dwell 
physically  in  you  as  in  a  tabernacle,  from  Communion  to 
Communion,  if  you  do  what  I  have  asked  you — guard  your 
«yes.  (4)  Your  faults  of  the  tongue  must  cease  from  this 
day,  they  are  working  you  much  harm.  (5)  You  must  work 
for  Me  as  you  have  never  done  before,  especially  by  prayer 
and  aspirations,  boldly  urging  souls  to  heroic  sanctity,  not 
minding  what  people  may  say  of  you.  Human  respect  is 
one  of  your  faults  still.' 

"  Before  leaving  the  chapel  Jesus  said  :  '  In  future  let  your 
heart  speak  ;  you  are  afraid  of  letting  people  know  that  you 
love  Me  tenderly.'  ' 

i. — In  this  matter  the  remark  of  S.  John  of  the  Cross  (Ascent  of  Mount 
Carmel  ii.  29,  4)  is  worth  remembering:  "I  am  terrified  by  what  passes  us 
in  these  days.  Any  mere  beginner  at  meditation,  if  he  becomes  conscious  of 
locutions  during  his  self-recollection,  forthwith  pronounces  them  to  be  the  work 
of  God,  and  hence  says,  God  has  spoken  to  me,  or,  I  have  had  an  answer  from 
God.  But  it  is  not  true  ;  he  has  simply  been  speaking-  to  himself." 


INTERIOR   UNION  95 

Apparently  without  regarding  them  as  directly  super 
natural,  Fr.  Doyle  felt  convinced  that  in  these  experiences  he 
was  listening  to  the  voice  of  his  Master.  This  explains  what 
would  otherwise  seem  mere  impulsiveness  and  impetuosity. 
He  often  waited  for  some  interior  inspiration  before  acting, 
and  when  it  came,  he  obeyed  instantly.1  "  The  resolution 
I  feel  impelled  to  make  to-day,"  he  wrote  on  the  eve  of  his 
Last  Vows  (1909)  "is  to  consult  the  Holy  Ghost  about 
everything,  and  to  do  what  He  suggests,  to  listen  to  His 
inspirations  and  to  refuse  Him  nothing.  I  believe  this  would 
sanctify  me  quickly." 

And  again  he  writes  on  I2th  Sept.  1913  : 

"  I  have  felt  strongly  urged  again  to  give  myself  entirely 
to  the  guidance  of  the  Holy  Spirit  and  to  follow  His 
inspirations.  For  example,  I  sometimes  feel  urged  to  take 
the  discipline  during  the  day,  and  when  I  have  been  able 
to  overcome  the  repugnance  to  the  trouble  of  it,  my  soul 
has  been  filled  with  joy.  Many  other  thoughts  of  this  kind 
come  into  my  mind — to  rise  when  I  wake,  not  to  do  this  or 
that — I  am  certain  they  are  from  the  Holy  Spirit,  but  I 
resist  His  voice,  and  hence  feel  unhappy.  In  future  I  will 
say  a  little  prayer  for  light  and  then  do  what  I  am  impelled 
to.  Just  now  I  was  sitting  in  an  armchair  fearfully  tired. 
It  cost  me  a  big  effort  to  undress  and  take  the  discipline, 
and  put  on  chain  round  waist.  But  the  result  was  a  most 
marvellous  increase  of  bodily  vigour." 

It  need  scarcely  be  said  that  such  a  method,  in  the  case 
of  one  untrained  in  theology  or  less  mature  in  spirituality 
would  be  fraught  with  great  danger.  It  was  to  St.  Joseph, 
not  to  our  Lady,  that  the  angelic  messages  were  given  ;  and 
the  converted  Paul  was  sent  for  direction  to  Ananias.  God 
wishes  to  help  us  through  the  medium  of  those  whom  He 
has  appointed  for  the  guidance  of  souls.  So  also  in 
Fr.  Doyle's  own  case  this  promptness  to  carry  out  the 
inspirations  of  grace  by  no  means  implied  that  he  dispensed 
himself  from  the  general  guidance  of  superior,  director  or 
confessor,  or,  in  special  cases,  from  detailed  permission.- 

i. — Compare  what  was  said  of  Pere  Ginhac  :  "Generally  the  final  decision 
is  postponed  until  the  last  moment.  He  waits  for  a  sign  from  divine  providence 
or  the  least  impulse  of  the  Holy  Spirit." — A  Man  after  God's  Own  Heart,  p.  88. 

2. — See  pp.  146,  172. 


g6  FATHER  WILLIAM  DOYLE,   SJ. 

This  submission  to  external  rule  and  guidance  is  the  universal 
characteristic  of  Catholic  holiness.  "  I  was  once  thinking," 
says  St.  Teresa,1  "  of  the  great  penance  practised  by 
Dona  Catalina  de  Cardona,  and  how  I  might  have  done 
more,  considering  the  desires  which  our  Lord  had  always 
given  me,  if  it  had  not  been  for  my  obedience  to  my  con 
fessors.  I  asked  myself  whether  it  would  not  be  well  for  the 
future  to  disobey  them  in  this  matter.  '  No,  my  daughter,1 
said  our  Lord  to  me.  '  You  are  on  the  safe  and  certain 
road.  Do  you  observe  all  her  penance  ?  I  think  more  of 
your  obedience.'  '  Similarly  S.  Margaret  Mary2  records 
that  our  Lord  said  to  her  :  "I  will  adjust  My  graces  to  the 
spirit  of  thy  rule,  to  the  will  of  thy  superioress  and  to  thy 
weakness  ;  so  that  thou  must  regard  as  suspicious  everything 
that  might  withdraw  thee  from  the  exact  observance  of  thy 
rule,  to  which  I  will  that  thou  shouldst  give  the  preference." 

It  is  but  natural,  of  course,  that  a  fully  formed  Jesuit  is 
not  in  need  of  the  same  minute  detailed  direction  which  is 
necessary  for  weaker  untrained  souls.  S.  Ignatius  supposes 
that  the  finished  member  of  his  Society  is  expert  in  the 
discernment  of  spirits,  quick  to  detect  evil  influences  and 
self-deception,  alert  to  recognise  the  promptings  of  grace. 
One  so  steeped  in  the  spirit  of  the  Exercises,  one  so  watchful 
in  continual  self -conquest,  as  Fr.  Doyle,  was  well  fitted  to 
guide  himself  and  others  in  the  imitation  of  Christ.  He 
had  the  direction  of  many  gifted  souls  and  he  accepted  this 
task  only  with  a  serious  sense  of  responsibility.  He  was 
by  no  means  uncritical  and  he  was  always  severely  practical. 
He  had  no  love  for  that  theorising  about  mysticism  which 
is  so  common.  "  I  would  strongly  advise  you,"  he  once 
wrote,  "  not  to  read  books  treating  of  the  mystical  life  unless 
you  can  get  a  good  guide.  You  might  be  imagining  yourself 
in  a  certain  state  when  you  are  a  thousand  miles  away  from 
it.  ...  Go  on  quietly,  loving  God  and  seeking  to  please 
Him,  without  trying  to  find  out  in  what  exact  state  of 
perfection  your  soul  is."  Very  sound  advice  for  any  beginner 
who  is  inclined  to  confuse  the  acquisition  of  a  mystical 
vocabulary  and  an  abnormal  habit  of  self-dissection  with 

i. — Relations  iii.  12.       Compare  also  Foundations  28.  18. 
2. — Life  (Paray-le-Monial),  Eng-.  trans.  1912,  p.  37. 


INTERIOR  UNION  97 

the  actual  experiences  and  privileges  of  the  saints.  Fr.  Doyle, 
of  course,  was  not  always  merely  negative  and  repressive. 
To  several  holy  souls  he  gave  help  and  guidance  in  regions 
ordinarily  inaccessible.  In  one  or  two  cases,  perhaps  three 
altogether,  he  ultimately  gave  his  approval  to  the  genuine 
ness  of  mystical  phenomena  such  as  locutions.  Many  times 
he  records  in  his  diary  a  message  which  one  of  these  few 
spiritual  children  sent  to  him  as  coming  from  Christ.  This 
is  an  instance  :  "  Tell  him  I  desire  this  union  with  My  whole 
Heart  ;  I  want  to  teach  him  how  to  deal  with  My  disciples." 
But  as  these  messages  are  by  no  means  as  clear  and  practical 
as  his  own  lights,  and  as  we  have  no  means  of  examining 
their  authenticity,  nothing  would  be  gained  by  reproducing 
them  here.  Besides,  it  is  not  at  all  clear  that  occasionally 
Fr.  Doyle's  trustful  sincerity  was  not  influenced  to  the 
detriment  of  a  more  severely  critical  judgement  which  a 
riper  experience  would  have  created. 

In  Fr.  Doyle's  own  case  these  celestial  messages  and 
inspirations  merged  by  insensible  gradations  into  more  homely 
experiences.  Like  St.  Ignatius  tossing  the  reins  on  his  mule's 
neck  as  he  rode  towards  Montserrat,  Fr.  Doyle  loved  to  see 
an  intimation  of  God's  will  in  what  men  usually  call  chance. 
He  would  '  cut '  a  favourite  book — say,  the  Life  of  Gemma 
Galgani,  the  Life  of  Pere  Ginhac,  or  even  the  New  Testament 
itself — in  order  to  find  some  helpful  text ;  an  act  to  which, 
by  the  way,  we  owe  S.  Augustine's  conversion.  Indeed, 
wherever  he  was  and  whatever  he  saw,  he  was  always  ready 
to  see  God's  hand  and  to  hear  His  voice.  Thus  he  records 
in  his  diary  on  2ist  Dec.,  1913  :  "At  the  end  of  the  per 
formance  of  Quo  Vadis  ?  the  words  of  our  Lord  seemed  to 
go  through  my  soul,  '  I  am  going  to  Rome  to  be  crucified 
for  thee.'  Jesus  must  have  given  me  a  big  grace,  for  I  walked 
home  stunned,  with  these  words  ringing  in  my  ears,  '  crucified 
for  thee.'  Oh  !  Jesus,  Jesus,  why  cannot  I  be  crucified  for 
You  ?  I  long  for  it  with  all  my  heart,  and  yet  I  remain 
a  coward.  Thank  you  at  least  for  the  dear  light  You  have 
given  me  about  the  life  You  ask  from  me,  namely,  '  to  give 
up  every  comfort  and  gratification,  to  embrace  lovingly 
every  possible  pain  and  suffering.'  '  A  devout  conclusion 
not  always  deducible  from  cinema  shows  ! 


98  FATHER  WILLIAM  DOYLE,   S.J. 

Fr.  Doyle's  habit  of  interrogating  everything  for  a  spiritual 
message  is  shown  in  his  visits  to  shrines.  In  Feb.,  1911, 
when  giving  a  retreat  in  Cork,  he  visited  the  grave  of  the 
little  orphan  child  who  is  known  as  '  Little  Nellie  of  Holy 
God.'  "  Kneeling  there,"  he  says,  "  I  asked  her  what  God 
wanted  from  me,  when  I  heard  an  interior  voice  clearly 
repeating,  '  Love  Him,  love  Him.'  The  following  day  she 
seemed  to  rebuke  me,  when  leaving  the  cemetery,  for  the 
careless  way  I  performed  most  of  my  spiritual  duties,  and 
to  say  that  God  was  displeased  with  this  and  wanted  great 
fervour  and  perfection  in  them."  In  November,  1912,  he 
was  able  to  pay  a  visit  to  Lourdes.  "Almost  the  first  thing  " 
he  writes,  "  which  caught  my  eye  at  the  grotto  was  our 
Lady's  words  :  Penitence,  penitence,  penitence  \  On  leaving, 
I  asked  Jesus  had  He  any  message  to  give  me.  The  same 
flashed  suddenly  into  my  mind  and  made  a  deep  impression 
on  me."  A  week  later  he  was  in  Lisieux.  "  Kneeling  at 
the  grave  of  the  Little  Flower,"  he  says,  "  I  gave  myself 
into  her  hands  to  guide  and  to  make  me  a  saint.  I  promised 
her  to  make  it  the  rule  of  my  whole  life,  every  day  without 
exception,  to  seek  in  all  things  my  greater  mortification,  to 
give  all  and  to  refuse  nothing.  I  have  made  this  resolution 
with  great  confidence  because  I  realise  how  utterly  it  is 
beyond  my  strength  ;  but  I  feel  the  Little  Flower  will  get 
me  grace  to  keep  it  perfectly."  While  he  was  military 
chaplain  in  France,  he  was  able  to  pay  two  visits  to  Amettes 
in  the  diocese  of  Boulogne,  the  birthplace  of  St.  Benedict 
Joseph  Labre.  This  is  how  he  records  his  second  visit  on 
ist  May,  1917  : 

"  Second  pilgrimage  to  Amettes  from  Locre.  During  the 
journey  I  felt  our  Lord  wanted  to  give  me  some  message 
through  St.  Benedict  Joseph  Labre.  No  light  came  while 
praying  in  the  Church  or  in  the  house  ;  but  when  I  went 
up  to  his  little  room  and  knelt  down  a  voice  seemed  to  whisper 
'  Read  what  is  written  on  the  wall.'  I  saw  these  words :  Dieu 
m '  appelle  d  la  vie  austere  ;  il  faut  que  je  me  prfyare  pour 
suivre  les  voies  de  Dieu.1  With  these  words  came  a  sudden 
light  to  see  how  much  one  gains  by  every  act  of  sacrifice, 

i. — " God  calls  me  to  an  austere  life;  I  must  prepare  myself  to  follow  the 
ways  of  God." 


INTERIOR   UNION  99 

that  what  we  give  is  not  lost ;  but  the  enjoyment  (increased 
a  thousand  fold)  is  only  postponed.  This  filled  me  with 
extraordinary  consolation  which  lasted  all  day." 

It  will  thus  be  seen  that  holiness  was  Fr.  Doyle's  constant 
preoccupation.  Though  he  was  human  and  social  as  well 
as  many-sided  in  his  interests,  the  central  realities  of  his 
life  were  God  and  his  own  soul.  God  was  to  him  no  distant 
Creator  or  far-off  Judge,  He  was  an  ever-present  Companion 
whose  voice  he  could  not  mistake,  to  whom  he  always  turned. 
Angels  were  to  him  no  subtle  speculation,  nor  were  the 
saints  merely  historical  examples.  With  childlike  simplicity 
he  spoke  to  them  and  strove  to  learn  from  them.  One  looks 
in  vain  among  his  papers  for  a  doubt  or  a  hint  of  modern 
scepticism.  He  saw  things  from  within,  and  he  was  satisfied  ; 
he  did  not  just  read  about  religion,  he  lived  it.  And  so  he 
lived  in  our  cities  of  to-day,  those  great  wildernesses  of 
stone  and  steel,  just  as  if  he  had  been  dwelling  in  the  uplands 
of  Galilee  twenty  centuries  ago.  He  passed  through  life 
with  the  faith  of  a  little  child,  and  thus  out  into  the  great 
Beyond,  still  a  child,  for  of  such  is  the  Kingdom  of  Heaven. 


(3.)  PERSONAL  ATTACHMENT  TO  CHRIST. 

"  Is  it  possible,"  asks  a  Protestant  clergyman,  no  less  a 
personage  than  the  late  Master  of  Balliol,1  "is  it  possible 
to  feel  a  personal  attachment  to  Christ  such  as  is  prescribed 
by  Thomas  a  Kempis  ?  "  "I  think,"  he  replies,"  that  it 
is  impossible  and  contrary  to  human  nature  that  we  should 
be  able  to  concentrate  our  thoughts  on  a  person  scarcely 
known  to  us,  who  lived  eighteen  hundred  years  ago."  What 
a  complacently  uttered  verdict  from  one  who,  with  all  his 
scholarship,  never  comprehended  the  inner  meaning  and 
motive-power  of  priest  and  nun,  aye,  and  of  millions  of 
suffering  toilers  who  in  Christ  alone  find  rest  for  their  souls  ! 
It  is  precisely  this  intense  personal  attachment  to  Jesus 

i. — Abbott  and  Campbell,  Life  and  Letters  of  B.  fotvett,  \\.  151.  Contrast 
S.  Peter  (i.  i.  8):  "Jesus  Christ  whom  having  not  seen,  you  love;  in  whom 
.also  now,  though  you  see  Him  not,  you  believe  ;  and  believing  shall  rejoice 
with  joy  unspeakable  and  glorified." 


loo  FATHER   WILLIAM   DOYLE,   SJ. 

that  is  the  key  to  the  life  of  a  man  like  Fr.  Doyle.  It  was 
the  driving-force  of  that  chivalrous  Spanish  hidalgo  who, 
after  winning  earthly  glory  at  the  siege  of  Pamplona,  hung 
up  his  sword  at  the  shrine  of  our  Lady  of  Montserrat  and 
enlisted  in  the  service  of  the  King  whose  proclamation  rang 
in  his  ears  :  "  My  will  is  to  conquer  the  whole  world  and  all 
enemies  and  thus  to  enter  into  My  Father's  glory.  Therefore 
whoever  desires  to  come  with  Me  must  labour  with  Me,  in 
order  that  following  Me  in  pain,  he  may  likewise  follow  Me 
in  glory."1  Mecum  (with  Me) — does  not  this  little  word 
carry  in  it  the  heart  of  Christianity  ?  The  sacrifices  of 
religious  life  are  possible  because  it  is  life  with  Christ.  The 
heroism  of  Christian  charity  lives  on  because  it  is  done  for 
Christ,  with  Christ,  to  Christ.  What  a  measureless  volume 
of  human  service  has  been  created  by  the  presence  and  the 
ideal  of  Christ  !  What  a  burden  of  human  suffering  has 
been  borne  with  Christ,  laid  beside  the  Passion  of  the  Son 
of  Man,  ever  since  the  days  when  Peter  and  the  apostles 
went  "  rejoicing  that  they  were  accounted  worthy  to  suffer 
reproach  for  the  name  of  Jesus."  (Acts  .5.  41.)  To-day, 
after  twenty  centuries,  the  name  of  Jesus  is  still  as  potent, 
and  the  friendship  of  Christ  is  alone  able  to  inspire  what  is 
most  sublime  and  heroic  in  humanity.  Unless  we  grasp  the 
ever-living  reality  of  this  companionship  of  Christ,  we  shall 
fail  completely  to  understand  the  struggles,  the  ecstasies, 
the  so-called  follies  of  the  saints  and  of  those  hidden  souls 
innumerable  of  whom  the  world  is  not  worthy.  '  The 
consciousness  of  this  friendship  of  Jesus  Christ,"  writes  Mgr. 
Benson,2  "  is  the  very  secret  of  the  saints.  Ordinary  men 
can  live  ordinary  lives,  with  little  or  no  open  defiance  of 
God,  from  a  hundred  second-rate  motives.  We  keep  the 
commandments  that  we  may  enter  into  life  ;  we  avoid  sin 
that  we  may  escape  hell  ;  we  fight  against  worldliness 
that  we  may  keep  the  respect  of  the  world.  But  no  man 
can  advance  three  paces  on  the  road  of  perfection  unless 
Jesus  Christ  walks  beside  him.  It  is  this,  then,  that  gives 
distinction  to  the  way  of  the  saint,  and  that  gives  him  his 
apparent  grotesqueness  too — for  what  is  more  grotesque  in 

i. — Spiritual  Exercises,  (The  Kingdom  of  Christ),  p.  34. 
2. — The  Friendship  of  Christ,  1912,  p.  10. 


PERSONAL  ATTACHMENT  TO   CHRIST       joi 

the  eyes  of  the  unimaginative  world  than  the  ecstasy  of  the 
lover  ?  Commonsense  never  yet  drove  a  man  mad ;  it  is 
commonsense  that  is  thought  to  characterise  sanity ;  and 
commonsense  therefore  has  never  scaled  mountains,  much 
less  has  it  cast  them  into  the  sea.  But  it  is  the  maddening 
joy  of  the  conscious  companionship  of  Jesus  Christ  that  has 
produced  the  lovers,  and  therefore  the  giants,  of  history.  It  is 
the  developing  friendship  of  Jesus  Christ  and  the  Passion  that 
has  inspired  those  lives,  which  the  world  in  its  dull  moods  calls 
unnatural  and  the  Church  in  all  her  moods  supernatural. 
'  This  priest/  cried  S,  Teresa  in  one  of  her  more  confidential 
moments  with  her  Lord,  '  this  priest  is  a  very  proper  person 
to  be  made  a  friend  of  ours.'  ' 

In  this  respect  Fr.  Doyle  was  a  true  member  of  the 
Company  of  Jesus.  It  scarcely  needs  to  be  proved  that 
his  whole  life  was  pivoted  on  love  for  Christ.  Without 
some  such  cardinal  passion  or  absorbing  motive,  a  man  will 
not  devote  his  life  to  sacrificing  his  natural  inclinations, 
seeking  and  enduring  pain,  toiling  in  gratuitous  and  often 
unrequited  service,  laying  down  his  life  amid  nauseating 
scenes  of  carnage.1  Such  a  life  can  only  be  led  with  Christ, 
always  mentally  and  often  sacramentally  present.  At  times 
Fr.  Doyle  felt  overpowered  by  the  intensity  of  this  love. 
"  Even  as  a  child,"  he  writes,  "  I  longed  and  prayed  to  be 
a  saint.  But  somehow  it  always  seemed  to  me  as  if  that 
longing  could  never  be  realised,  for  I  felt  there  was  some 
kind  of  a  barrier  like  a  high  Wall  between  myself  and  God. 
What  it  was,  I  cannot  say  even  now.  But  recently  this 
obstacle  appears  to  me  to  have  been  removed,  the  way  is 
open,  and  I  feel  I  love  Jesus  now  as  I  never  did  before,  or 
even  hoped  to.  With  this  comes  the  conviction,  so  strong 
and  consoling  with  so  much  peace  and  happiness,  that  Jesus 
will  grant  my  heart's  desire  before  I  die.  I  dare  not  put 
on  paper  what  I  feel,  even  if  I  could  ;  but  at  times  Jesus 
seems  to  pour  all  the  grace  of  His  Sacred  Heart  upon  me 
until  I  am  intoxicated  almost  with  His  love  and  could  cry 
out  with  the  pain  of  that  sweet  wounding." 

i. — Here  is  a  note  jotted  down  on  22nd  April,  1905  :  "  Work  for  Jesus  !  Yes, 
though  the  weary  head  may  ache  and  the  tired  brain  refuse  to  act.  Work  on, 
work  on  ;  the  years  slip  by  and  soon  the  hour  of  toil  will  cease  for  ever. 
Work  for  Jesus  !  How  sweet  these  words  !  Not  one  effort  escapes  His  watchful 
eye  and  He  will  reward  you  with  a  joy  unknown  for  what  you  suffer  now." 


102  FATHER  WILLIAM  DOYLE,   S.J. 

"  I  cannot  deny,"  he  said  on  another  occasion,  "  that  1 
love  Jesus,  love  Him  passionately,  love  Him  with  every 
fibre  of  my  heart.  He  knows  it,  too,  since  He  has  asked 
me  to  do  many  things  for  Him,  which  have  cost  me  more 
than  I  should  like  to  say,  yet  which  with  His  grace  were 
sweet  and  easy  in  a  sense.  He  knows  that  my  longing,  at 
least,  even  if  the  strength  and  courage  are  wanting,  is  to  do 
and  suffer  much  more  for  Him,  and  that  were  He  to-morrow 
to  ask  for  the  sacrifice  of  every  living  friend,  I  would  not 
refuse  Him.  Yet  with  all  that,  with  the  intense  longing 
to  make  Him  known  and  loved,  I  have  never  yet  been  able 
to  speak  of  Him  to  others  as  I  want  to." 

And  here  is  a  precious  letter  in  which,  forgetting  his  usual 
reserve,  he  gives  an  intimate  correspondent  a  glimpse  into 
the  inner  fires  of  his  soul.  It  is  dated  from  the  Presentation 
Convent,  B ,  3oth  July.  1914. 

"  What  you  say  is  indeed  true.  Jesus  has  been  '  hunting  ' 
me  during  these  past  days,  trying  to  wound  my  heart  with 
His  arrows  of  love.  He  has  been  so  gentle,  so  patient,  tender, 
loving,  I  do  not  know  at  times  where  to  turn,  and  yet  I 
somehow  feel  that  much  of  this  grace  is  given  me  for  others, 
I  know  it  has  helped  souls  and  lifted  them  close  to  Jesus. 

"  I  long  to  get  back  to  my  little  room  at  night,  to  calm 
and  quiet,  and  yet  I  dread  it,  for  He  is  often  so  loving  there. 
I  feel  He  is  near  because  I  cannot  go  to  Him  in  the 
Tabernacle.  It  is  such  a  helpless  feeling  to  be  tossed  about 
as  it  were  on  the  waves  of  love,  to  feel  the  ardent,  burning 
love  of  His  Heart,  to  know  He  asks  for  love,  and  then  to 
realise  one  human  heart  is  so  tiny. 

'  Your  letter  and  little  meditation  have  helped  me.  At 
times  I  have  smiled  at  the  folly  of  what  you  say  since  I 
realize  how  little  you  know  of  my  real  character,  and  then 
like  a  big  wave  the  truth  seems  to  burst  on  me,  that  as  a 
fierce  fire  sweeps  away  and  consumes  all  obstacles,  so  the 
love  of  God  blots  out  the  many  faults  and  failings  of  my 
poor  life  and  leaves  me  free  to  go  to  Him. 

'  The  bands  are  playing  in  the  town  below,  but  the  music 
in  my  soul  is  a  thousand  times  sweeter.  '  The  Love  of 
God.'  I  have  one  more  lecture,  some  confessions  and  then — 
no  you  may  not  come — He  wants  to  be  alone  with  me  for 


PERSONAL  ATTACHMENT  TO  CHRIST        103 

a  few  brief  moments  at  least  that  I  may  pour  out  on  Him 
all  my  love  and  affection  and  put  my  arms  around  His  neck — 
my  Jesus  and  my  All.  Forgive  me,  child,  I  am  foolish." 

Another  intimate  note  tells  us  how  at  times  his  love  found 
vent  in  reverently  yet  affectionately  embracing  the  image 

of  his  crucified  Master.1  "I  went  on  to and  once 

more  had  an  opportunity  of  a  quiet  prayer  before  the  life-size 
crucifix  in  the  church  which  I  love  so  much.  I  could  not 
remain  at  His  feet  but  climbed  up  until  both  my  arms  were 
around  His  neck.  The  Figure  seemed  almost  to  live,  and 
I  think  I  loved  Him  then,  for  it  was  borne  in  upon  me  how 
abandoned  and  suffering  and  broken-hearted  He  was.  It 
seemed  to  console  Him  when  I  kissed  His  eyes  and  pallid 
cheeks  and  swollen  lips,  and  as  I  clung  to  Him,  I  knew  He 
had  won  the  victory,  and  I  gave  Him  all  He  asked."2 

Fr.  Doyle's  love  for  Christ  was  thus  not  confined  to  the 
cold  upper  regions  of  the  soul,  whither  many  who  walk  in 
the  darkness  of  faith  must  relegate  it.  It  was  something 
which  filled  his  whole  being  and  at  times  overflowed  sensibly. 
"  Was  not  our  heart  burning  within  us  whilst  He  spoke  in 
the  way  ?  "  exclaimed  the  two  disciples.  (S.  Luke  24.  32.) 
Fr.  Doyle  was  often  on  the  Emmaus  road ;  Jesus  seemed 
to  speak  in  the  way,  and  his  heart  was  burning  within  him. 
His  emotion  then  found  utterance  in  loving  transports,  one 
of  which  was  happily  put  on  paper.  "  I  know  not  why  I 
am  writing  this,"  he  says,  "  except  it  be  to  ease  my  straining 
heart,  for  at  times  I  feel  half  mad  with  the  love  of  God." 

'  Jesus  is  the  most  loving  of  lovable  friends — there  never 
was  a  friend  like  Him  before,  there  never  can  be  one  to  equal 
Him,  because  there  is  only  one  Jesus  in  the  whole  wide 
world  and  the  vast  expanse  of  Heaven,  and  that  sweet  and 
loving  friend,  that  true  lover  of  the  holiest  and  purest  love 

i. — This  little  quotation  from  a  letter  of  Fr.  Doyle's  will  help  to  explain  his 
attitude  still  further  :  "  The  wretched  spirit  of  Jansenism  has  driven  our  dear 
Lord  from  His  rightful  place  in  our  hearts.  He  longs  for  love,  and  familiar 

love,  so  give  him  both 1  need  scarcely  say,  when  others  do  not  see  you.  .  .  . 

I  know  a  holy  soul  who  never  leaves  the  chapel  without  kissing  the  tabernacle 
door  and  walking  backward,  kissing  her  hand  to  the  Prisoner  of  Love." 

2. — Compare  this  from  the  life  of  S.  Margaret  Mary  (Paray-le-Monial  Life, 
Eng.  trans.,  Visitation  Library,  Walmer,  Kent,  1912,  pp.  62,  94):  "  He  made 
me  repose  for  a  long  time  upon  His  Sacred  Bosom,  where  He  discovered  to  me 
the  marvels  of  His  love."  "  He  held  me  for  the  space  of  two  or  three  hours 
with  my  lips  pressed  to  the  wound  of  his  Sacred  Heart." 


104  FATHER   WILLIAM   DOYLE,   SJ. 

is  my  Jesus,  mine  alone  and  all  mine.  Every  fibre  of 
His  divine  nature  is  thrilling  with  love  for  me,  every  beat 
of  His  gentle  Heart  is  a  throb  of  intense  affection  for  me, 
His  sacred  arms  are  round  me,  He  draws  me  to  His  breast, 
He  bends  down  with  infinite  tenderness  over  me,  His  child, 
for  He  knows  I  am  all  His,  and  He  is  all  mine.  In  His  eyes 
the  vast  world,  the  myriads  of  other  souls  have  all  vanished, 
He  has  forgotten  them  all, — for  that  brief  moment  they  do 
not  exist — for  even  the  infinite  love  of  God  Himself  is  not 
enough  to  pour  out  on  the  soul  who  is  clinging  so  lovingly 
to  Him. 

"  O  Jesus,  Jesus,  Jesus  !  who  would  not  love  You,  who 
would  not  give  their  heart's  blood  for  You,  if  only  once 
they  realised  the  depth  and  the  breadth  and  the  realness 
of  Your  burning  love  ?  Why  not  then  make  every  human 
heart  a  burning  furnace  of  love  for  You,  so  that  sin  would 
become  an  impossibility,  sacrifice  a  pleasure  and  a  joy,  virtue 
the  longing  of  every  soul,  so  that  we  should  live  for  love, 
dream  of  love,  breathe  Your  love,  and  at  last  die  of  a  broken 
heart  of  love,  pierced  through  and  through  with  the  shaft 
of  love,  the  sweetest  gift  of  God  to  man." 

Doubtless  there  are  stolid  souls  who  will  not  appreciate 
these  emotional  outpourings,  who  regard  such  fervent 
language  as  mere  sentimentalism.  It  is  true,  of  course, 
that  such  utterances  were  never  meant  to  be  dragged  from 
their  sacred  privacy  into  the  cold  light  of  print.  But  that 
is  just  the  beauty  of  them.  They  well  up  spontaneously 
from  the  heart  of  a  strong  man,  they  express  the  pent  up 
enthusiasm  of  this  brave  soldier  of  Christ,  seeking  an  uncon 
ventional  outlet.  Fr.  Doyle  was  no  sickly  sentimentalist  or 
hysterical  weakling.  He  lived  what  he  felt,  and  he  meant 
what  he  said.  Why  should  we  fancy  that  strength  must  be 
shorn  of  tenderness  ?  Why  should  we  think  that  only 
earthly  love  is  privileged  to  have  its  delights  ?  Paul,  the 
man  of  action,  was  accused  by  some  Corinthian  converts  of 
being  '  beside  himself.'  "  If  we  have  been  beside  ourselves," 
he  answers,  "  it  was  for  God  ;  if  we  are  now  in  our  right 
senses,  it  is  for  you.  For  the  love  of  Christ  overmasters 
us — reflecting  that  as  One  died  for  all,  then  all  were  dead  ; 
and  that  He  died  for  all,  so  that  the  living  may  no  longer 


PERSONAL  ATTACHMENT  TO  CHRIST        105 

live  to  themselves  but  to  Him  who  died  for  them  and  rose 
again.  .  .  .  Hence  if  any  one  is  in  Christ,  he  is  a  new 
being,  his  old  life  has  passed  away,  a  new  life  has  begun  !  " 
{//  Cor.  5.  13-17.)  Charitas  Christi  urget  nos.  Thus  wrote 
the  great  Apostle  of  the  Gentiles  in  a  public  letter.  And 
John,  "  the  disciple  whom  Jesus  loved,  the  one  who  at  the 
Supper  leant  back  on  His  breast  "  (S.  John  21.  20),  tells 
us  that  "  we  know  what  love  is  through  Christ's  having  laid 
down  His  life  for  us  "  (I  John  3.  16.)  Has  not  Jesus  Himself 
set  His  seal  on  the  humanness,  so  to  speak,  of  our  relations 
with  Him  ?  He  will  not  call  us  servants  but  friends. 
(S,  John  15.  15.)  "  You  are  the  men  who  have  stood  by 
Me  in  My  trials  "  (S.  Luke  22.  28),  said  our  Lord  to  His 
Apostles.  And  He  had  sorrowfully  to  add,  "  Even  you  will 
all  be  scandalized  in  Me  to-night  "  (S.  Matthew  26.  31.) 
Yet  as  a  last  appeal  He  took  with  Him  to  His  agony  His 
three  favoured  friends,  whose  slumber  He  then  lovingly 
excused  And  as  they  slept,  stretched  there  beneath  the 
moonlit  olive-trees,  was  He  not  comforted,  not  only  by  the 
angelic  messenger,  but  by  the  countless  faithful  ones  who 
would  watch  and  pray  during  their  '  holy  hour/  who, 
separated  in  sequence  of  time  but  nigh  to  His  eternal  gaze,1 
would  kneel  beside  Him  and  drink  His  chalice  ?  And  as 
His  pain-racked  form  was  raised  aloft  on  the  Hill  of  Golgotha, 
as  His  blood-clotted  eyes  looked  down  on  a  sea  of  mocking 
hardened  faces,  did  He  not  feel  the  stream  of  adoring  love 
which  down  the  centuries  was  to  converge  on  the  Crucified  ? 
4 'And  I.  if  I  be  lifted  up  from  the  earth,  will  draw  all  things 
to  Myself."  (S.  John  12.  32.)  Peter  crucified  head  down 
wards,  following  his  Master  at  last  ;  Ignatius  of  Antioch 
crying  "  My  Love  is  crucified "  ;  the  innumerable  souls 
whose  last  earthly  gaze  is  fixed  on  the  crucifix  ;  and  every 
one  of  us  who  has  knelt  before  the  image  of  Christ  Crucified, 
or  made  the  Stations  of  the  Cross  or  stood  in  spirit  on  Calvary 
with  Mary,  His  Mother  ;  all  are  joining  in  reparation  to  the 
Heart  of  Jesus.  Seen  in  this  eternal  perspective,  is  there 
not  a  wondrous  and  touching  reality  in  Fr,  Doyle's  climbing 

i. — "  Holy  Father,  keep  them  in  Thy  name  whom  Thou  hast  given  Me.  .  .  . 
And  not  for  them  only  do  1  pray,  but  for  them  also  who  through  their  word 
shall  believe  in  Me." — S.John  17.  11,  20. 


106  FATHER   WILLIAM   DOYLE,   SJ. 

up  to  the  life-size  crucifix  and  kissing  the  pallid  face  of  the 
Crucified  ?  It  is  just  such  simple,  artless  love  which  discerns 
the  ever-present  significance  of  the  Life  of  Christ.1 

As  a  pledge  of  his  devotion  to  Christ  and  to  bind  his  life 
to  that  of  his  Master,  Fr.  Doyle  made  a  vow  of  consecration 
to  the  Sacred  Heart  of  Jesus,  signing  his  name  thereto  in 
his  blood,  and  thus  attesting  his  dedication  of  himself  to 
the  service  of  Him  "  who  hath  loved  us  and  washed  us  from 
our  sins  in  His  own  blood."  (Apoc.  i.  5.)  It  was  made 
during  one  of  those  quiet  midnight  vigils  which  Fr.  Doyle 
loved  so  well  and  was  written  by  the  red  glimmer  of  the 
sanctuary  lamp. 

"  Most  loving  Jesus,  kneeling  before  You  in  the  Blessed 
Sacrament,  I  solemnly  consecrate  myself  to  Your  Sacred 
Heart  by  vow.  I  vow  always  to  be  Your  faithful  lover 
and  to  strive  every  day  to  grow  in  Your  love.  In  imitation 
of  the  oblation  which  B.  Margaret  Mary  made  of  herself,  I 
now  wish  to  give  myself  up  absolutely  and  entirely,  without 
any  reserve  whatever,  to  Your  most  Sacred  Heart,  that 
You  may  be  free  to  do  with  me,  to  treat  me,  as  You  wish, 
to  send  me  whatever  suffering  or  humiliation  You  wish.  I 
desire  to  put  no  obstacle  to  the  action  of  grace  upon  my  soul, 
to  be  a  perfect  instrument  in  Your  divine  hands,  to  be  Your 
victim  should  You  so  desire.  I  want  to  make  this  oblation 
and  immolation  of  myself  to  Your  Sacred  Heart  as  completely 
as  possible,  and  in  the  manner  which  You  wish  me  to  make 
it,  O  my  Jesus.  Therefore,  again,  by  this  vow,  I  make  a 
complete  surrender  of  myself  and  all  I  have  to  You.  Do 
with  me  as  You  will,  for  from  this  hour  I  am  wholly  Yours 

Amen. 

Feast  of  St.  Michael,  Friday,  Sept.  29th,  1910. 

Made  at  Midnight.     Signed   W.  J.  DOYLE,  S  J." 

i.— Compare  the  second  contemplation  of  the  Second  Week  of  the  Spiritual 
Exercises  (p.  39) :  "  The  first  point  is  to  see  the  persons  ;  that  is  to  say,  to  see 
our  Lady  and  St.  Joseph  and  the  serving-maid,  also  the  Infant  Jesus  after  His 
birth,  accounting-  myself  a  poor  and  unworthy  servant,  looking  at  and  con 
templating  them  and  tending  them  in  their  necessities  as  though  I  were  present 
there,  with  a!!  possible  homage  and  reverence."  So  S.  Gertrude  :  "The  day 
ot  Thine  adorable  Nativity,  I  took  Thee  from  the  crib,  wrapped  in  swathing- 
clothes,  like  a  little  infant  newly  born,  and  placed  Thee  in  my  heart."  —Life 
and  Revelations,  London,  1865,  p.  100.  "  Kissing  the  wounds  of  Christ  "  she 
used  frequently  in  the  day  to  "  pour  forth  all  her  griefs  into  the  wounds  of  her 
Lord  and  find  therein  all  her  consolation  and  all  her  joy"  (p.  231). 


PRAYER  107 

(4.)  PRAYER. 

One  of  Fr.  Doyle's  favourite  devotions  was  that  of  the 
Holy  Hour.1  Long  before  he  became  a  priest  he  had  made 
it  faithfully  week  after  week  and  found  it  a  fruitful  source 
of  grace.  Afterwards  as  a  hard-working  priest,  he  contrived 
to  increase  the  number  of  nocturnal  visits.  "  Two  years 
ago  when  at  Tours,"  he  writes  on  22nd  Nov.,  1914,  "  I  felt 
strongly  urged  to  rise  and  make  the  Holy  Hour  every  night. 
In  the  past  twelve  months  I  have  gone  down  to  the  chapel 
about  fifty  times,  though  often  only  for  a  few  moments  ; 
this  does  not  include  the  weekly  Holy  Hour  on  Thursday. 
Now  I  feel  impelled  to  rise  each  night,  when  at  home,  at 
least  for  a  quarter  of  an  hour."  And  in  April,  1915,  he  resolved 
"  to  make  the  Holy  Hour  each  night  from  ten  to  eleven 
when  at  home."  How  he  made  it  may  be  best  gathered 
from  an  entry  in  his  diary  under  the  date  ist  Sept.,  1911. 
"  Last  night,"  he  writes,  "  while  making  the  Holy  Hour  in 
my  room,  Jesus  seemed  to  ask  me  to  promise  to  make  it 
every  Thursday,  even  when  away  giving  retreats,  and  when 
I  cannot  go  to  the  chapel,  He  wants  the  greater  part  of  the 
time  to  be  spent  prostrate  on  the  ground,  which  I  find  very 
painful.  I  think  He  wants  me  to  share  in  His  agony  during 
this  hour,  feeling  a  little  of  the  sadness,  desolation,  and 
abandonment  He  experienced,  the  shame  of  sin,  the 
uselessness  of  His  sufferings  to  save  souls.  I  begged  Him 
to  plunge  my  soul  into  the  sea  of  bitterness  which  surrounded 
Him.  It  was  an  hour  of  pain,  but  I  hope  for  more." 

Fr.  Doyle  devoted  himself  to  the  propagation  of  this 
practice.  It  was  long  uphill  work,  not  so  much  among 
holy  souls  living  in  the  world,  very  many  ot  whom  adopted 
it  enthusiastically,  as  among  religious  communities,  where 
innovations  progress  slowly,  even  apart  from  the  difficulty 
of  finding  room  for  a  new  devotion  in  an  already  overcrowded 

i. — See  above  p.  22.  A  brief",  useful  and  practical  account  of  this  devotion, 
initiated  by  S.  Margaret  Mary  Alacoque,  will  be  found  in  The  Holy  Jfour,  by 
J.  McDonnell,  S.J.  (Dublin,  Irish  Messenger  Office).  See  also  the  quotation 
from  S.  M.  Mary  on  p.  137.  In  one  of  his  letters  Mgr.  d'Hulst  defines 
devotion  to  the  Sacred  Heart  as  "the  holy  hour  endlessly  prolonged." — The 
Way  of  the  ffeart(E.ng,  trans.,  1913),  p.  65.  The  thirteenth  century  S.  Gertrude 
often  "kept  vigil  and  was  occupied  with  the  remembrance  of  the  Lord's 
Passion  "and  was  "much  fatigued." — Life  and  Revelations,  Eng.  tr.  1865,  p.  227. 


io8  FATHER   WILLIAM   DOYLE,   SJ 

time-table.  But  the  efforts  were  in  many  cases  crowned 
with  success.  "  Our  Blessed  Lord  is  at  last  blessing  my 
efforts  to  establish  the  Holy  Hour,"  wrote  Fr.  Doyle  in  1914. 
"  Up  to  this  attempts  have  been  more  or  less  of  a  failure, 
but  now  they  have  taken  it  up  warmly  in  all  the  W.  convents. 
The  Mother  Provincial  of  the  X.  nuns  will  push  it  during 
her  visitation.  Moreover  the  devotion  has  been  established 
with  full  sanction  of  the  authorities  in  Y.,  and  will  now 
spread  to  the  other  ten  convents  there.  A  letter  from  Z 
yesterday  told  me  that  they,  too,  after  three  years'  wait 
had  fallen  into  line."  It  is  scarcely  necessary  to  add  that 
this  propaganda  did  not  always  meet  with  approval  or  favour. 
But  it  deserves  to  be  recorded  that  Fr.  Doyle  was  by  no  means 
a  blind  enthusiast.  He  quite  appreciated  local  or  individual 
difficulties.  Thus  he  wrote  to  a  nun  in  1911  :  "As  regards 
the  Holy  Hour  I  would  urge  you  personally  not  to  make 
a  practice  of  staying  up  every  Thursday  night.  The  privation 
of  sleep  tells  in  the  end,  and  you  are  not  too  strong  ;  and 
if  you  get  knocked  up,  people  will  say  that  was  the  cause 
and  may  even  get  the  Hour  forbidden.  God  likes  generosity, 
but  we  must  be  prudent  and  not  expect  Him  to  work 
miracles." 

This  practice  was  but  one  expression  of  his  love  for  the 
Blessed  Sacrament.1  Again  and  again  he  gives  vent  to  his 
eucharistic  devotion.  "  The  mad  longing  for  His  presence," 
he  writes,  "is  at  times  overpowering.  It  would  be  hard 
to  describe  how  He  chains  me  to  Him,  the  magnetic  attraction, 
the  more  than  physical  force  that  drags  me  to  the  Tabernacle, 
and  then  the  pain  with  which  I  realize  at  His  feet  how  small 
and  feeble  the  human  heart  is  to  give  Him  a  love  worthy 
of  His."  He  spent  every  spare  moment  in  church  or  chapel  ; 
and  since  spare  moments  grew  scarcer  as  the  years  went 
on,  he  laid  the  hours  of  sleep  under  contribution  On  some 
feast  days,  such  as  that  of  Corpus  Christi,  he  contrived  to 
spend,  at  intervals,  as  much  as  seven  hours  before  the  Blessed 
Sacrament.  But  besides  his  want  of  leisure  in  the  daytime, 
he  had  a  special  love  for  vigil  before  the  Tabernacle.  Prayer 
was  easier  in  the  quiet  stillness  of  the  night,  he  was  free 

i. — He  became  a  Knight  of  the  Blessed  S;tcrament  on  ist  January,  19:7,  at 
Locre  in  Belgium,  where  he  was  military  chaplain. 


PRAYER  109 

to  express  outwardly  the  longings  of  his  heart,  and  last 
but  not  least,  he  liked  nocturnal  prayer  because  it  was  hard. 
To  rise  when  one  awakes,  or  to  set  one's  alarum  for  midnight, 
and  creep  down  to  the  chapel,  even  were  it  only  for  a  few 
minutes,  is  no  slight  act  of  mortification.  Still  more  heroic 
is  the  cheating  oneself  of  the  sleep  earned  after  a  hard  day's 
work.  Fr.  Doyle  did  not  ever  find  this  easy.  In  his  Retreat 
of  September  1915,  he  records  :  "A  greater  urging  to  spend 
every  available  moment  with  Him  and  to  try  to  practise 
nocturnal  adoration  oftener  ;  '  every  night '  Jesus  says,  but 
I  am  too  cowardly  and  too  fearful  of  my  health.  Would 
He  not  help  me  if  I  tried  ?  "l 

It  was  while  he  was  on  the  mission  that  he  most  keenly 
felt  his  inability  to  visit  our  Lord  at  night,  it  was  then  that 
he  realised  how  much  a  domestic  chapel  means.  "  I  never 
knew/'  runs  a  letter  of  his,  "  how  much  Jesus  in  the  Taber 
nacle  enters  our  lives  as  religious,  till  I  had  to  live  for  weeks 
in  houses  where  He  was  absent.  I  manage  to  make  the  Holy 
Hour  each  week,  though  I  have  to  wait  till  all  are  asleep 
before  I  can  steal  out  to  the  chapel,  sometimes  a  couple  of 
miles  away." 

Later  on  when  stationed  in  England  as  military  chaplain 
he  wrote2 :  '  There  is  one  thing  I  cannot,  (I  almost  wrote 
'  will  not '),  bear,  the  loss  of  our  dearest  Lord.  It  is  bitterly 
hard  to  have  to  live  day  after  day  without  His  presence 
except  for  a  few  moments  each  morning  during  Mass,  which 
only  makes  things  harder  still,  for  I  am  left  hungering  for 
Him  for  twenty-four  hours.  I  have  found  a  tiny  chapel 
some  miles  from  here,  but  I  can  seldom  get  there.  The 
thought  of  Jesus  in  that  lonely  Tabernacle  haunts  me  always, 
and  at  night  I  seem  to  hear  Him  calling  gently  and  sadly. 
Oh  !  how  I  wish  I  could  go  to  Him  through  the  mud  and 
rain."  A  month  later  (January  1916)  he  writes :  '  We 
came  here  (Bordon  Camp)  in  awful  rain  and  wind,  but  on 

i.- — Obviously,  such  nocturnal  prayer  requires  discretion  and  guidance. 
"  It  is  incredible,"  says  S.  Francis  de  Sales,  "  how  dangerous  long  night  vigils 
are  and  how  much  they  weaken  the  brain.  It  is  not  felt  during  youth  ;  but  it 
comes  to  be  felt  so  much  the  more  afterwards,  and  many  persons  have  rendered 
themselves  useless  in  this  way." — Letters  to  Persons  in  Religion,  Eng.  trans. 
(Mackay),  1901,8  p.  68  (cf.  p.  43).  See  also  the  loth  Addition  to  the  First 
Week  of  the  Exercises. 

2. — See  also  p.  217. 


no      FATHER  WILLIAM  DOYLE,  SJ. 

reaching  the  barracks,  the  first  thing  I  saw  were  the  words  : 
'  R.  C.  Hut.'  Thinking  it  was  just  the  empty  hut  for  Sunday 
Mass,  and  yet  half-hoping,  I  opened  the  door  to  find  a 
beautifully  furnished  little  chapel  with  the  red  lamp  that 
told  me  all.  I  think  I  now  know  what  Mary  felt  when  she 
found  her  Son  in  the  temple.  How  I  thanked  Him  for  this 
gift,  for  His  goodness  in  sending  my  regiment  to  camp  about 
His  dwelling  !  His  goodness  did  not  stop  there,  for  without 
asking  him,  the  priest  in  charge  gave  me  the  key,  so  that 
I  can  come  to  Jesus  at  any  time.  I  am  very  happy  now, 
for  I  have  Him,  Deus  meus  et  omnia1  — all  else  cannot  supply 
His  place — and  life  seems  quite  changed." 

Even  when  serving  at  the  Front,  his  thoughts  turned  to 
nocturnal  prayer  and  adoration.  Here  is  an  entry  dated 
25th  October,  1916  :  "  Jesus  has  long  urged  me  to  give  Him 
a  whole  night  of  prayer  and  reparation.  Last  night  I  prayed 
in  my  dug-out  at  Kemmel  from  9  till  5  (eight  hours),  most 
of  the  time  on  my  knees.  I  bound  myself  beforehand  to 
do  so  by  vow  in  order  not  to  let  myself  off.  Though  I  had 
only  two  hours'  sleep,  I  am  not  very  tired  or  weary  to-day. 
Jesus  wants  more  of  these  nights  of  prayer,  adoration  and 
atonement." 

Thus  this  true  follower  of  the  Prince  of  Peace  pursued 
his  calm  inner  life  amid  the  scenes  and  sounds  of  human 
strife,  kneeling  in  his  dug-out  and  adoring  his  eucharistic 
Lord  in  the  pyx  as  quietly  and  devotedly  as  if  he  were  in  the 
domestic  chapel  of  Rathfarnham  Castle.  Two  months  before 
his  death  he  notes  (2ist  June,  1917)  :  "  Jesus  told  me  to-day 
that  the  work  of  regeneration  and  sanctification  is  to  be 
done  by  leading  souls  to  Him  in  the  Blessed  Sacrament." 
And  on  2nd  July  he  records  :  '  The  conviction  has  been 
growing  that  nocturnal  adoration  will  be  established  only 
if  I  spend  much  time  myself  before  the  Blessed  Sacrament 
at  night.  I  know  well  that  Jesus  not  only  wants  me  to 
sacrifice  much  of  my  sleep,  but  also  to  rise  sometimes  during 
the  night  to  adore  and  console  Him  in  the  Tabernacle.  The 
repugnance  (and  yet  attraction)  to  this  is  extraordinary." 

It  will  be  clear  from  such  an  admission  that  Fr.  Doyle's 


i. — "  My  God  and  All  "     aspiration  of  S.  Francis  of  Assisi.     (Fioreiti  2  } 


PRAYER  in 

devotion  to  the  Real  Presence  was  quite  compatible  with 
dryness,  drowsiness  and  discomfort.  In  advice  once  sent 
to  another  he  gives  us  the  secret  of  his  own  devotion  to 
his  sacramental  Lord.  "  Real  devotion  to  the  Blessed 
Sacrament,"  he  writes,  "  is  only  to  be  gained  by  hard,  grinding 
work  of  dry  adoration  before  the  Hidden  God.  But  such  a 
treasure  cannot  be  purchased  at  too  great  a  cost,  for  once 
obtained,  it  makes  of  this  life  as  near  an  approach  to  heaven 
as  we  can  ever  hope  for." 

Although  grace  worked  very  effectively  and  appreciably 
in  his  soul,  it  never  dispensed  him  from  '  hard,  grinding 
work.'  Even  in  the  case  of  that  interior  union  which  seemed 
to  be  so  spontaneously  natural  in  Fr.  Doyle,  we  can  from 
his  diary  perceive  how  slow,  painful  and  methodic  were  the 
means  which  he  took  to  acquire  and  perfect  such  union. 
During  his  retreat  of  January  1913  he  wrote  :  "  I  feel  drawn 
still  more  to  the  life  of  interior  union.  To  acquire  this  I 
must  practise  the  following : — 

(1)  Constant  and  profound  recollection. 

(2)  To  keep  my  thoughts  always  if  possible  centred  on 

Jesus  in  my  heart. 

(3)  To  avoid  worry  and  anxiety  about  future  things. 

(4)  To  avoid  useless  conversation. 

(5)  Great  guard  over  my  eyes,   not   reading  or  looking 

at  useless  things." 

So,  even  in  regions  generally  called  mystic,  he  proceeded 
in  that  clear,  systematic,  one  might  say  businesslike,  way 
so  characteristic  of  St.  Ignatius.1  No  vague  yearnings 
after  sublimities  or  ecstasies,  no  anxiety  for  the  abnormal 
or  singular,  just  a  quiet  persevering  fidelity  in  small  things 
and  an  unflinching  determination  to  avail  of  those  countless 
opportunities  with  which  each  day  is  strewn.  To  use  an 
expressive  phrase,  St.  Ignatius  wishes  us  in  our  spiritual 
life  to  come  to  the  point ;  he  will  have  no  pious  generalities  ; 
no  beating  about  the  bush.  In  my  meditation  I  am  "  to 
reflect  in  order  to  derive  some  fruit  "  ;  in  my  prayer  I  am 
"  to  ask  of  God  our  Lord  that  which  I  wish  and  desire." 
Above  all,  I  must,  according  to  St.  Ignatius,  specialise,  I 
must  concentrate  on  some  special  defects,  needs,  or  devotions. 

i. — See  above  p.  34. 


H2      FATHER  WILLIAM  DOYLE,  SJ. 

And  this  concentration  necessarily  implies  an  increase  in 
self-conscious  purpose,  a  growth  in  deliberate  mental  self- 
control.  Thus  to  eradicate  some  special  sin  or  fault,  St. 
Ignatius  suggests  "  that  each  time  a  person  falls  into  that 
particular  sin  or  defect  he  lays  his  hand  on  his  breast, 
repenting  that  he  has  fallen  ;  and  he  can  do  this  even  in  the 
presence  of  many  people  without  their  perceiving  it."  More 
over  he  wants  us  to  write  down  twice  a  day  the  number  of 
times  we  have  fallen  ;  he  will  not  have  us  merely  enter  the 
total  number,  the  faults  must  be  represented  graphically  by 
parallel  rows  of  points,  so  that  we  can  at  a  glance  compare 
day  with  day  and  week  with  week.  Such  is  the  spiritual 
accountancy  of  the  writer  of  the  Spiritual  Exercises?  who 
wishes  us  to  apply  to  our  souls  the  minute  care  with  which 
business  men  keep  their  ledgers.  Not  everyone,  of  course, 
could  or  should  literally  follow  all  these  details  on  every 
point ;  but  there  is  in  them  an  elemental  method  of  the 
human  mind,  which  we  altogether  neglect  only  at  the  peril 
of  lapsing  into  unpractical  dreaming,  vague  sentimentalism, 
and  perhaps  serious  self-delusion.2 

This  incisive,  one  might  say  militant,  method  of  spirituality 
appealed  very  much  to  the  fervent  heart  and  chivalrous 
courage  of  Fr.  Doyle.  He  believed  in  marshalling  all  his 
forces  for  the  immediate  present,  in  concentrating  his  energies 
on  the  holiness  attainable  here  and  now.  In  this  strain  he 
writes  on  the  Feast  of  the  Blessed  Cure  of  Ars,  4th  August, 
1913  :  "  Making  my  meditation  before  the  picture  of  the 
Blessed,  he  seemed  to  say  to  me  with  an  interior  voice  :  The 
secret  of  my  life  was  that  /  lived  for  the  moment.  I  did  not 
say,  '  I  must  pray  here  for  the  next  hour,'  but  only  '  for 
this  moment.'  I  did  not  say,  '  I  have  a  hundred  confessions 
to  hear/  but  looked  upon  this  one  as  the  first  and  last.  I  did 
not  say,  '  I  must  deny  myself  everything  and  always,'  but 
only  '  just  this  once.'  By  this  means  I  was  able  always  to 
do  everything  perfectly,  quietly  and  in  great  peace.  Try 

i. — Particular  Exanien  (pp.  i3f. )  Subsequently  this  same  method  was 
extended  to  recording  positive  acts  of  virtue,  instead  of  merely  marking 
defects. 

2. — Pere  Ginhac  once  surprised  his  superior,  who  was  confessing1  to  him,  by 
the  unexpected  query:  "And  what  about  your  particular  examen?  Do  you 
make  it  properly?  What  is  the  subject  of  it?" — A  Man  After  God's  Own  Heart, 
p.  282. 


PRAYER  113 

and  live  this  life  of  the  present  moment.  Pray  as  if  you 
had  nothing  else  whatever  to  do  ;  say  your  Office  slowly 
as  if  for  the  last  time  ;  do  not  look  forward  and  think  you 
must  often  repeat  this  act  of  self-denial.  This  will  make 
all  things  much  easier."  Two  years  later  we  find  a  similar 
entry  :  "  No  sacrifice  would  be  great  if  looked  at  in  this 
way.  I  do  not  feel  now  the  pain  which  has  past,  I  have 
not  yet  to  bear  what  is  coming  ;  hence  I  have  only  to  endure 
the  suffering  of  this  one  moment,  which  is  quickly  over  and 
cannot  return." 

It  was  especially  by  momentary  recollection  and  ejaculatory 
prayer  that  Fr.  Doyle  sought  to  sanctify  the  passing  moment 
and  to  condense  perfection  into  the  immediate  present.  When 
he  was  tempted  to  break  a  resolution,  or  when  he  shrank 
from  some  sacrifice,  he  used  to  say  five  times  to  himself, 
"  Will  you  refuse  to  do  this  for  the  love  of  Jesus  ?  "  By 
means  of  aspirations  he  sharpened  his  will  into  instant  action 
and  brought  into  play  all  the  accumulated  motive-power 
of  the  past.  "  This  morning,"  he  writes  in  his  diary  (Sept. 
1915),  "  I  lay  awake  powerless  to  overcome  myself  and  to 
make  my  promised  visit  to  the  chapel.  Then  I  felt  prompted 
to  pray  ;  I  said  five  aspirations  and  rose  without  difficulty. 
How  many  victories  I  could  win  by  this  easy  and  powerful 
weapon  !  "  Indeed  he  had  a  wonderful  idea  of  the  value 
of  aspirations  as  a  source  of  grace  and  merit.  "  Great  light 
at  meditation,"  he  writes,  "  on  the  value  of  one  aspiration. 
If  I  knew  I  should  receive  £i  for  each  one  I  made,  I  would 
not  waste  a  spare  moment.  And  yet  I  get  infinitely  more 
than  this,  though  I  often  fail  to  realise  it."  During  the  last 
few  years  of  his  life  Fr.  Doyle's  conviction  of  the  value  of 
aspirations  steadily  grew  ;  and  with  him  to  believe  was  to 
act.1  The  number  of  aspirations  which  he  contrived  to 
fit  into  one  day  advanced  from  10,000  to  over  100,000.  This 
latter  astounding  figure  was  reached  while  he  was  actually 
engaged  in  the  arduous  duties  of  military  chaplain  at  the 

i . — The  following  aspirations,  jotted  down  in  one  of  Fr.  Doyle's  notebooks, 
seem  to  have  been  favourites  of  his  :  (i)  My  Crucified  Jesus,  help  me  to  crucify 
myself.  (2)  Lord,  teach  me  how  to  pray  and  pray  always.  (3)  Jesus,  Thou 
Saint  of  saints,  make  me  a  saint.  (4)  Blessed  be  God  for  all  things.  (5)  My 
loving  Jesus  within  my  heart,  unite  my  heart  to  Thee.  (6)  Heart  of  Jesus,  give 
me  Your  zeal  for  souls.  (7)  My  God,  Thou  art  omnipotent,  make  me  a  saint. 


U4  FATHER  WILLIAM  DOYLE,   SJ. 

Front.  As  he  never  revealed  this  to  anyone  and  as  the 
achievement  seems  rather  incredible/ it  will  be  well  to  extract 
from  his  diaries  and  to  give  here  the  references  and  resolutions 
concerning  aspirations.  These,  it  should  be  remembered, 
were  written  solely  for  his  own  use.1 

"  I  felt  urged  to-day  to  make  an  effort  to  reach  10,000 
aspirations  each  day  ;  if  I  fall  short,  to  make  up  the  number 
at  another  time.  This  would  mean  three  and  a  half  million 
acts  in  the  year.  How  much  grace  and  holiness  that  would 
mean  !  I  have  so  much  lost  time  to  make  up."  (2ist 
Sept.,  1911.) 

"  During  a  visit  to  D I  made  a  strong  resolution, 

cost  what  it  may,  every  day  to  make  10,000  ejaculations 
(since  increased  to  12,000).  I  have  never  realised  before 
so  clearly  how  much  I  was  losing  by  not  doing  so."  (22nd 
April,  1912.) 

"  Novena  to  Blessed  Cure*  d'  Ars.  Resolved  to  bear  small 
pains  and  make  20,000  aspirations."  (26th  July,  1913.) 

"  Constant  urging  of  Jesus  to  make  every  effort  to  reach 
20,000  aspirations  daily."  (i8th  July,  1914.) 

"  25,000  aspirations ;  if  possible,  10,000  before  lunch." 
(Resolution  on  New  Year's  Day,  1915.) 

"  I  made  a  vow,  in  honour  of  Soeur  Therese,  for  the  rest 
of  my  life  to  make  every  day  10,000  aspirations,  unless 
sick."  (3rd  March,  1915.) 

"  Jesus  said  to  me  :  '  You  must  make  your  life  a  martyrdom 
of  prayer.'  This  means  that  I  must  give  every  spare  moment 
to  aspirations  etc. — generously  banishing  idle  thoughts  in 
which  I  indulge  so  much — trying  to  make  50,000  daily 
I  must  also  increase  very  much  the  time  I  spend  in  the 
chapel."  (ist  May,  1916.) 

"  Feast  of  the  Seven  Dolours.  Said  Mass  in  St.  Colette's 
home  at  Corbie.  While  visiting  the  chapel  where  she  was  a 

i. — The  following  typical  figures,  giving  the  number  of  recorded  daily 
aspirations  at  different  periods,  are  taken  from  the  booklets  wherein  Fr.  Doyle 
made  such  entries:  1,300,  Jan.  1909;  2,000,  May  1909;  3,000,  Oct.  1909; 
4,000,  Nov.  1910;  5,000,  Jan.  1911;  6,000,  July  1911;  10,000,  Sept.  1911; 
15,000,  May  1912  ;  20,000,  Aug.  1913;  60,000,  Oct.  1914;  90,000,  Nov.  1914. 
These  figures  give  aome  of  the  actual  numbers  recorded  at  his  daily  exam 
ination.  That  the  task  was  not  easy  is  shown  by  his  many  relapses  and  the 
constant  resolutions  he  made.  See  his  first  extant  resolution,  made  during' 
the  Long  Retreat,  p.  62.  See  reference  to  aspirations  in  letter,  p.  267. 


PRAYER  115 

recluse  for  four  years,  again  I  felt  most  strongly  urged  to 
make  the  50,000  aspirations  the  penance  of  my  life,  and  to 
force  myself,  no  matter  at  what  cost,  to  get  through  them 
daily.  I  have  made  this  resolve :  that  if  this  is  impossible, 
I  will  make  up  the  number  later  on."  (i5th  Sept.,  1916.) 

"  It  seemed  to  me  that  it  would  please  our  Lord  to  try 
and  make  up  for  all  the  aspirations  I  might  have  made  during 
the  early  years  of  my  religious  life.  At  the  rate  of  10,000 
a  day  for  15  years  this  would  amount  to  fifty-four  million. 
I  have  promised  Him  to  pay  this  back,  counting  anything 
over  the  usual  50,000  aspirations  each  day.  It  is  a  huge 
amount  to  face,  but  with  His  grace  I  shall  accomplish  my 
task,  more  especially  as  I  have  proved  it  is  possible  to  do 
100,000  daily  with  a  little  energy  and  courage.  If  He 
preserves  my  life  during  this  war,  I  must  work  with  might 
and  main  for  Him  in  gratitude.  This  grace  I  owe  to  my 
darling  Mother  Mary,  who  has  put  this  thought  into  my 
mind  to-day,  Saturday."  (2nd  Nov.,  1916.) 

"Again  a  clear  interior  light  that  God  wants  me  to  aim 
at  the  100,000  aspirations  daily.  I  feel  a  longing  to  take 
up  this  life  of  unceasing  prayer  and  at  the  same  time  a  dread 
and  a  loathing  of  this  burden,  for  I  must  watch  every  spare 
minute  of  the  day  to  perform  my  penance.  I  feel  Jesus 
asks  this  in  reparation  for  His  priests.  With  the  help  of 
our  Blessed  Lady  I  have  this  day  begun  the  big  fight."  (i3th 
Dec.,  1916.) 

"  The  conviction  is  steadily  growing  stronger  that  I  am 
doing  what  God  wants  specially  from  me  by  making  the 
100,000  aspirations.  I  have  not  experienced  much  trouble 
in  doing  so  for  the  past  twelve  days."  (ist  January,  1917.) 

"  I  find  I  am  falling  off  in  the  100,000  aspirations.  Have 
bound  myself  for  a  week  by  vow  to  make  the  full  number, 
(ist  Feb.,  1917.) 

"  I  have  made  a  bargain  with  our  Lord  to  give  me  a  soul 
for  every  1,000  aspirations  made  over  the  daily  100,000." 
(i3th  Feb...  1917.) 

Thus  we  learn  from  these  intimate  confessions  that 
Fr.  Doyle  regarded  this  practice  as  the  penance  of  his  life, 
that  he  had  to  watch  every  spare  minute  of  the  day  to 
perform  this  penance,  that  it  was  a  burden  for  which  he 


Ii6  FATHER   WILLIAM   DOYLE,  SJ. 

felt  dread  and  loathing,  and  that  nevertheless  he  was 
ultimately  able  "  with  a  little  energy  and  courage  "  to  make 
a  hundred  thousand  aspirations  in  the  day.  How  he  accom 
plished  this  marvellous  feat  must  remain  something  of  a 
psychological  mystery,  for  we  have  no  further  evidence  or 
details.  It  is  clear  that  he  thus  utilised  every  spare  moment ; 
whenever  he  was  waiting  for  someone,  whenever  he  was 
travelling  alone  or  even  passing  along  the  house,  he  occupied 
himself  in  saying  his  beads  or  in  ejaculatory  prayer.  But 
even  at  the  rate  of  fifty  aspirations  a  minute  it  would  take 
over  thirty-three  hours  to  make  a  hundred  thousand 
ejaculations.  It  would  seem  then  that  by  aspiration 
Fr.  Doyle  meant  not  so  much  a  form  of  words  (e.g.  an 
indulgenced  prayer),  as  a  turning  of  the  mind  to  God,  a  heart 
beat  of  love,  a  lightning-flash  of  the  soul.  In  this  way, 
perhaps,  he  was  able  to  turn  his  every  movement  and  activity 
into  a  deliberate  expression  of  love  for  Christ.1  In  a  retreat 
to  priests  he  pointed  out  that  the  ordinary  Office  contained 
about  12,000  words  ;  and  it  is  very  probable  that  he  himself 
regarded -each  word  devoutly  said  as  an  aspiration.  Only 
in  this  way  can  we  explain  the  possibility  of  what  he  did. 
We  must  also  be  content  with  guessing  at  his  method  of 
counting.  Probably  certain  duties  such  as  Mass,  Office  and 
Rosary  were  reckoned  at  some  numerical  value  corresponding 
to  the  average  words  contained.  And  the  remaining 
aspirations  were  perhaps  counted  with  the  help  of  a 
'  watch  ' — a  little  instrument  sometimes  used  by  missioners 
for  numbering  confessions.  The  significance  of  this  definite 
recording  of  the  number  of  aspirations  etc.,  does  not  lie  so 
much  in  the  heroic  extreme  to  which  he  ultimately  carried 
it,  for  this  is  a  personal  development  largely  inapplicable 
to  others  of  a  different  type  of  mind.  Its  importance  consists 
rather  in  the  fact,  which  we  must  not  leave  unnoticed,  that 
it  was  by  this  simple  Ignatian  device  that  he  succeeded  in 
initially  acquiring  the  habit.  In  September  1910,  during 
his  retreat,  he  chronicles  a  failure  which  will  be  an  encouraging 


i. — Compare  the  advice  of  S.  Francis  de  Sales:  "Do  all  things  for  God, 
making  or  continuing-  your  union  by  simple  turning  of  your  eyes  or  outflowing 
of  your  heart  towards  Him." — Letters  to  Persons  infjteligion,  Eng.  trans.  1901, 
P-  355- 


PRAYER  117 

lesson  to  us.  '  The  great  defect  in  my  character,"  he  says, 
"  and  chief  reason  why  I  make  so  little  progress  is  my  want 
of  fidelity.  Thus  in  the  past  eighteen  months  I  have  not 
marked  the  ejaculations  and  acts  of  self-denial  over  three 
hundred  times,  which  means  that  on  these  days  I  did  none." 
A  conclusion  which  is  surely  too  severe,  but  which  at  least 
shows  us  the  efficacy  of  '  marking  '  our  incipient  efforts. 

Fr.  Doyle  was  naturally  a  zealous  advocate  of  this  practice 
for  others.  "  There  is  nothing,"  he  said  in  a  letter,  "  there 
is  nothing  better  than  the  practice  of  aspirations,  steadily 
growing  in  number.  Keep  a  little  book  and  enter  them  once 
a  day.  ...  I  would  like  you  to  keep  count  of  these 
little  acts  like  the  aspirations,  but  don't  go  too  fast ;  build 
up  and  do  not  pull  down."  He  realised,  of  course, — though 
perhaps  not  sufficiently  clearly  in  one  or  two  cases — that  the 
systematic  piling  up  of  aspirations  to  reach  an  arithmetically 
defined  goal  might  be  extremely  unsuitable  to  many  minds. 
His  views  were,  in  fact,  very  prudent  and  tolerant.  This 
is  advice  which  he  gave  in  February  1912  :  "As  to  any 
practice  of  piety  there  is  a  double  danger  :  recommending 
it  as  infallible,  or  condemning  it  as  useless.  I  always  make 
a  point  of  saying  that  all  things  are  not  for  all  people. 
Characters  differ  so  much.  .  .  .  My  own  experience,  and 
that  of  many  others,  is  that  the  beads  for  marking  aspirations 
are  an  invaluable  help  ;  for  if  there  is  not  a  definite  number 
of  acts  marked  or  counted  somehow,  you  will  very  soon 
find  that  very  few  are  done.  I  think  you  have  found  the 
benefit  of  counting  twenty  acts  of  self-denial ;  so  if  you 
like,  do  the  same  for  aspirations,  increasing  slowly,  not  too 
many  at  first — and  no  straining."  "As  regards  counting 
the  aspirations,"  he  similarly  wrote  to  another  penitent  in 
July  1914,  "  if  you  really  find  that  it  is  a  strain  on  your  tired 
head,  give  up  the  practice." 

It  is  indeed  perfectly  obvious  that  beyond  a  certain  total — 
say  forty  or  fifty  a  day — this  arithmetical  application  of  the 
Ignatian  method  to  aspirations,  or  other  acts  of  virtue, 
will  in  normal  cases  produce  very  injurious  results.  Any 
unnatural  strain  or  tension  will  ruin  that  cheerful  spontaneity 
and  elastic  freshness  which  is  so  essential  to  religious  life. 
Moreover,  an  undue  stress  on  the  merely  numerical  aspect 


1X8  FATHER  WILLIAM   DOYLE,   SJ. 

of  prayer  may  lead  to  a  serious  depreciation  of  more  important 
qualities.  How  we  pray  is  a  far  more  vital  problem  than 
how  much  we  pray ;  intensity  is  preferable  to  extension. 
"  When  you  are  praying,  speak  not  much  as  the  heathens ; 
for  they  think  that  in  their  much  speaking  they  may  be 
heard."  (5.  Matthew  6.  7.)  There  is  a  spiritual  lesson  for 
us,  too,  in  that  exquisite  little  scene  of  Jesus  sitting  down 
and  watching  the  people  putting  their  offerings  into  the 
temple-chests.  He  made  no  comment  on  the  many  generous 
donors  who  came  ;  but  when  a  poor  widow  came  with  her 
two  farthings— surely  the  Master  was  waiting  for  her — He 
called  His  disciples  to  teach  them  a  new  principle  of  valuation, 
as  applicable  to  the  spiritual  as  to  the  material  life.  The 
widow's  contribution  was  the  highest  in  God's  sight,  because 
"  she  of  her  want  cast  in  all  she  had,  even  her  whole  living." 
(S.  Mark  12.  44.)  Jesus  is  still  sitting  nigh  and  watching 
as  we  make  our  offerings.  We  may  not  be  able  to  pray  or 
do  much,  but  if  we  in  our  want  cast  in  all  we  have,  even  our 
whole  living,  if  what  little  we  give  is  given  wholeheartedly, 
we  need  not  fear  the  judgement  of  Him  who  cherishes  the 
mites  of  the  weak. 

It  is  well  to  realise  this  qualitative  aspect  of  prayer,  because, 
as  in  the  case  of  Fr.  Doyle,  the  counting  is  purely  secondary. 
As  has  already  been  remarked,  what  he  meant  by  an 
aspiration  was  not  necessarily  a  form  of  words,  it  was  a 
movement  of  the  soul.  And  in  enumerating  his  aspirations 
he  did  not  mean  to  fill  his  life  with  a  series  of  discontinuous 
and  separate  acts,  but  rather  to  make  this  succession  of 
little  impulses  melt  into  one  continuous  note  of  heaven's 
music.  His  ideal  was  not  so  much  formal  prayer  as  an 
uninterrupted  pray  erf  ulness.  No  doubt,  Fr.  Doyle,  partly 
out  of  a  desire  for  mortification,  hammered  out  his  enormous 
burden  of  aspirations  with  a  degree  of  strenuous  endurance 
which  would  have  left  most  people  limp  and  prostrate.  Here 
precisely  is  the  personal  element  which  we  must  carefully 
avoid  unthinkingly  transferring  into  our  own  lives.  And 
perhaps — for  we  know  but  little — perhaps  we  are  really 
exaggerating  the  violence  or  the  numerical  precision  of  his 
efforts  ?  At  any  rate  he  himself  often  advised  his  spiritual 
children  to  cultivate  rather  a  habitual  conviction  of  God's 


PRAYER  119 

nearness,  an  effortless  restful  sense  of  companionship.  These 
are  two  typical  extracts  from  such  letters  : 

"  I  think  our  Lord  wants  your  whole  day  to  be  one 
continued  act  of  love  and  union  with  Him  in  your  heart, 
which  has  no  need  of  words  to  express  it.  Your  attitude 
ought  to  be  that  of  the  mother  beside  the  cot  of  her  babe, 
lost  in  love  and  tenderness,  but  saying  nothing,  just  letting 
the  heart  speak,  though  the  wee  one  cannot  know  it  as  Jesus 
does.  There  is  nothing  more  sanctifying  than  this  life, 
which  few,  I  fear,  reach  to,  since  it  means  a  constant  effort 
to  bring  back  our  wandering  imagination." 

"  By  all  means  follow  the  guidance  of  the  Holy  Spirit 
and  do  not  bind  yourself  to  anything  which  you  find  a 
hindrance.  Just  let  yourself  '  sink  into  God  '  when  in  His 
presence.  Don't  try  to  pray  in  words,  but  love  Him — which, 
of  course,  is  the  highest  prayer — and  then  abandon  yourself 
to  His  pleasure,  whether  that  be  consolation  or  darkness. 
In  the  matter  of  prayer  always  try  to  follow  the 
attraction  of  the  Holy  Spirit.  .  .  .  Try  to  keep  our 
divine  Lord  company  in  your  heart  all  day  long,  thinking 
of  Him  within  you — a  union  which  will  bring  you  many 
graces  and  make  His  presence  much  more  real." 

This  advice  about  prayer,  this  emphasis  on  the  end  in 
view,  rather  than  on  the  precise  mode,  will  serve  further  to 
show  us  that  Fr.  Doyle's  detailed  calculations  and  daily 
records  were  simply  means  to  the  end,  psychological  devices 
suitable  to  his  own  mind  and  justifying  themselves  by  their 
success.  He  kept  a  special  series  of  little  books,  his  soul's 
account  books  one  might  call  them,  wherein  he  noted  not 
only  aspirations  but  mortifications  in  minute  detail,  column 
after  column  of  figures.  How  literally  and  carefully  he 
observed  the  Master's  precept :  "  Trade  till  I  come "" ! 
(S.  Luke  19.  13.)  How  ready  he  must  have  been  when  the 
great  Auditor  came  and  the  account  was  closed  !  One 
cannot  but.  handle  with  reverence  these  booklets  with  their 
eloquent  figures  summing  up  years  of  faithful  service  and 
hidden  struggle.  Are  they  not  transcribed  in  the  Book  of 
Life  wherein  our  lives  are  written  ?  Has  not  every  tiny 
act  or  inspiration  been  adjudicated  upon  and  perpetuated 
into  an  eternal  worth  ? 


120  FATHER  WILLIAM   DOYLE,   S.'j. 

But  as  this  spiritual  book-keeping  is  suited  to  very  few,  it 
has  seemed  wise  even  to  risk  being  irritatingly  insistent  in 
directing  the  reader's  attention  to  what  is  permanent  and 
universal  in  this  method,  apart  from  special  developments 
adapted  to  individual  cases.  What  is  essential  in  this 
Jgnatian  method  is  to  pin  oneself  down  to  a  definite, 
enumerable  or  verifiable,  achievement ;  to  aim  not  at  good- 
,ness  in  general  but  this  much  goodness  here  and  now  ;  and 
not  only  to  resolve  but  to  examine,  to  look  back  as  well  as 
forward ;  to  record  objectively  the  results  of  these 
experiments  in  the  laboratory  of  one's  own  soul.  These 
are  broad  principles,  not  so  much  of  spirituality  as  of 
psychology  ;  and  within  their  amplitude  there  is  plenty  of 
room  for  individuality  and  initiative. 

One  or  two  further  examples  from  Fr.  Doyle's  diary  will 
help  to  bring  out  the  intensely  practical  and  definite  way 
in  which  spiritual  emotions  and  resolutions  can  be  sharpened 
and  applied.  His  Long  Retreat  resolutions  have  already 
been  given.  This  is  how  he  comments  on  them  at  a  later 
stage  (January,  1909)  :  "  Reading  over  my  reflections  and 
resolutions  on  the  Third  Degree  during  the  Long  Retreat,  I 
see  now  they  are  little  more  than  empty  promises  ;  they  have 
produced  no  real  change  in  my  life.  I  put  before  myself 
•  always  to  choose  the  hard  thing,  to  go  against  self  in  all 
things.'  But  have  I  really  done  so  since  ?  Has  my  life 
been  more  mortified  from  the  time  I  made  this  resolution  ? 
Now,  however,  I  am  fully  resolved  no  longer  to  '  beat  the 
air,'  but  have  drawn  up  a  list  of  definite  acts  of  self-denial 
by  which  I  can  test  myself.  If  only  I  am  faithful  to  these, 
I  shall  indeed  have  begun  to  lead  a  new  and  better  life 
than  formerly."  And  again  in  September  1911  he  writes  : 
"  The  proposed  vow  has  been  in  my  mind  constantly  as 
if  our  Lord  was  determined  that  I  should  not  escape  even 
if  I  wished  to  do  so.  I  see  the  need  of  it,  in  order  to  brace 
my  weak  yielding  nature.  In  previous  retreats  I  have  made 
many  generous  resolutions,  e.g.  to  seek  my  constant  morti 
fication  in  all  things.  But  these  have  never  really  been 
kept  for  any  length  of  time.  I  must  henceforth  leave  no 
loophole  for  escape."  There  speaks  the  true  Ignatian  spirit 
of  determination  to  bring  high  ideals  down  to  concrete  definite 


PRAYER  121 

and    feasible    applications,     to    condense    generalities    into 
accessible  facts. 

This  refusal  to  take  refuge  in  vague  emotions,  this 
persistence  in  reducing  oneself  to  the  test  of  daily  and  hourly 
achievement,  is  also  illustrated  by  "  the  book  of  little 
victories  "  which  Fr.  Doyle  began  in  1915.  In  this  he  entered 
one  by  one  the  acts  of  self-conquest  and  virtue  which  he 
performed,  making  sure  that  no  day  would  be  blank.  Here, 
for  instance,  are  a  few  of  the  entries  for  April :  "  Morning 
discipline.  Paper  not  read.  Rose  at  night.  Finished  Office, 
very  tired  and  sick.  Slept  on  floor.  Hour's  visit  to  B  S. 
Hair-shirt.  No  fire.  Made  Holy  Hour.  Did  not  take 
sugar.  Denied  eyes  several  times.  Wore  waist  chain." 
And  so  on,  day  after  day.  To  those  who  indulge  in  pious 
velleities  and  general  resolutions,  this  stream  of  precise 
applications  may  seem  like  a  cold  douche ;  but  it  is 
exceedingly  healthy.  On  I3th  June  he  pasted  in  his  book 
a  little  picture  of  our  Lady  of  Victories,  and  once  more  began 
the  succession  of  daily  victories,  a  veritable  stream  of  bullets 
with  himself  as  target.  "  Slept  on  the  floor.  No  relief  in 
small  sufferings.  Put  on  chain  in  bad  humour.  Violent 
temptation  to  eat  cake  and  resisted  several  times.  Two 
hours'  prayer  when  weary.  Rose  for  visit  at  two.  Unkind 
story  kept  back.  Overcame  desire  to  lie  in  bed."  Enough 
has  now  been  quoted  to  illustrate  the  severely  practical  and 
methodical  way  in  which  Fr.  Doyle  aimed  at  holiness.  There 
is  here  no  question  of  impossible  arithmetic,  no  head-splitting 
efforts  at  enumeration.  Just  a  grim  pertinacity  of  daily 
effort  at  reducing  to  practice  some  of  the  high  ideals  which 
a  less  systematic  person  would  allow  to  evaporate.  This, 
whether  applied  to  prayer  or  to  self-denial,  is  characteristic 
of  Jesuit  spirituality.1  As  a  matter  of  fact,  many  of  the 
entries  just  cited  refer  more  to  self-denial  than  to  prayer. 
In  the  next  chapter  we  shall  review  in  detail  this  aspect  of 
Fr.  Doyle's  inner  life. 


/. — Compare  St.  Ignatius's  saying  :    "  Love  ought  to  be  found  in  deeds  rather 
than  words." — Contemplation  for  obtaining-  Love,  Spiritual  Exercises,  p.  74. 


122  FATHER  WILLIAM  DOYLE,   SJ. 

CHAPTER  VII. 
MORTIFICATION   AND   SUFFERING 

(i.)  SELF-CONQUEST. 

WHEN  long  years  ago,"  once  wrote  Fr.  Doyle,  "  I  asked 
our  Blessed  Lord  to  make  me  a  saint,  cost  what 
it  might,  I  did  not  realise  what  even  a  small 
part  of  that  cost  would  be.  I  have  never  regretted  my 
compact,  nor  do  I  now,  though  I  am  half  afraid  God  has 
forgotten  His  part  of  the  bargain,  the  process  of  sanctification 
has  been  so  slow.  As  time  goes  on,  I  see  more  clearly  that 
God  wants  from  me  a  life  that  consists  mainly  of  two  things, 
prayer  and  penance.  Never-ceasing  prayer,  in  spite  of  the 
natural  weariness  and  disgust  which  often  come,  kneeling 
rather  than  in  any  other  posture  ;  but  above  all,  prayer  at 
night  in  imitation  of  His  all-night  prayer,  and  when  possible, 
nocturnal  adoration  of  the  Blessed  Sacrament.  Joined  to 
prayer  must  be  a  life  of  penance,  interior  first  of  all,  otherwise 
such  a  life  would  be  a  delusion.  But  I  must  by  no  means 
stop  short  at  interior  penance.  Jesus  seems  to  stretch  out 
His  bleeding  Hands  to  me,  imploring  for  more  than  that, 
for  penance  almost  merciless  in  its  severity." 

We  have  already  glimpsed  some  of  the  secrets  of  his 
prayer,  we  must  now  illustrate  his  spirit  of  penance.  In  his 
Spiritual  Exercises1  St.  Ignatius  tells  us  that  "  exterior 
penances  are  used  chiefly  for  three  purposes  :  first,  as  a 
satisfaction  for  past  sins  ;  secondly,  in  order  to  overcome 
oneself,  that  is  to  say,  in  order  that  sensuality  may  be  obedient 
to  reason  and  all  that  is  inferior  be  more  subjected  to  the 
superior  ;  thirdly,  in  order  to  seek  and  find  some  grace  or 
gift  which  a  person  wishes  for  and  desires."  For  ordinary 
cases  this  is  an  adequate  explanation  of  exterior  mortification, 
under  which  term  must  be  included  not  only  the  voluntary 

i. — Notes  to  the  Additions  of  the  First  Week,  (p.  31).       This  is  taken  from 
S.  Thomas,  Summa,  2,  2,  q  147,  a  i. 


SELF-CONQUEST  123 

infliction  of  pain  and  fasting  or  abstinence,  but  also  every 
deliberate  exterior  act  of  self-denial,  were  it  only  the  restraint 
of  curiosity,  the  conquering  of  lassitude  or  perserverance  in 
an  uncongenial  duty.  There  are  many  good  and  holy  souls 
who  have  never  dreamt  of  taking  a  discipline  or  wearing  a 
hair-shirt ;  yet  asceticism  is  not  wanting  to  their  lives. 
Indeed,  there  is  always  a  danger  lest  unusual  penances  may 
be  undertaken  in  a  spirit  of  self-will  and  vanity,  to  the 
detriment  of  that  safest  and  most  hidden  of  all  morti 
fications — the  persevering  perfection  of  common  life.  St. 
Teresa,  evidently  writing  from  personal  knowledge,  describes 
with  gentle  irony  those  religious  who  delight  in  self-imposed 
penance  and  neglect  the  divinely  imposed  penance  of  rules 
and  daily  duties.  "It  is  amusing  (she  says1 )  to  see  the 
mortifications  with  which  some  of  their  own  accord  afflict 
themselves.  Sometimes  there  seizes  them  a  fit  of  immoderate 
and  indiscreet  penance,  which  lasts  for  about  two  days. 
The  devil  then  suggests  to  their  imagination  that  such  morti 
fications  injure  them.  So  they  never  again  do  penance — 
not  even  what  the  rules  of  the  order  enjoin — as  they  have 
found  that  mortification  does  them  harm  ;  and  they  do 
not  observe  even  the  least  injunctions  of  the  rule,  such  as 
silence,  which  cannot  do  us  any  harm.  And  as  soon  as  we 
fancy  that  we  have  a  headache,  we  refrain  from  going  to 
choir — though  this  will  hardly  kill  us.  One  day  we  omit 
going  because  our  head  aches,  the  next  because  it  did  ache, 
and  three  more  days  we  keep  away  lest  it  should  ache  !  We 
love  to  invent  penances  of  our  own." 

These  practical  remarks  remind  us  of  what  homely  stuff 
the  garment  of  holiness  is  spun.  Often  when  we  read  the 
lives  of  the  saints  we  are  apt  to  lose  the  real  perspective. 
Unconsciously  singling  out  the  special  graces  and  extra 
ordinary  sufferings,  we  pay  insufficient  attention  to  the 
continuous  background  of  minor  physical  ills,  commonplace 
disappointments  and  petty  annoyances,  which  loom  so  large 
in  our  seemingly  ordinary  lives,  but  which  so  often  escape 
the  chronicler  and  reader  of  the  lives  of  the  saints.  Yet 
God  never  exempts  even  chosen  souls  therefrom,  for  it  is 
precisely  in  this  subjection  to  these  general  laws  of  providence 

i. —  Way  of  Perfection,  ch.  10. 


124  FATHER   WILLIAM   DOYLE,   S.J. 

that  human  goodness  is  to  be  attained.  "Alas,  my  sovereign 
Lord,"  complained  Saint  Margaret  Mary,1  "  why  dost 
Thou  not  leave  me  in  the  common  way  of  the  daughters  of 
Holy  Mary  ?  Hast  Thou  brought  me  into  Thy  holy  house 
to  destroy  me  ?  Give  Thy  extraordinary  graces  to  those 
chosen  souls  who  will  correspond  with  them  better  than 
I  do,  for  I  only  resist  Thee.  All  I  wish  for  is  Thy  love  and 
Thy  cross  ;  that  suffices  for  me  to  become  a  good  religious 
and  that  is  all  I  desire."  Thus^  these  gratuitous  favours 
are  not  only  not  sought  for,  but  in  no  wise  dispense  the 
recipient  from  those  general  conditions  and  limitations 
which  are  so  wondrously  exemplified  even  in  the  life  of 
Christ.  Most  of  His  earthly  existence  He  spent  as  a  village 
artisan ;  often  He  was  footsore,  weary  and  hungry ;  He 
was  misunderstood  even  by  those  nearest  to  Him,  He  felt 
disappointment  and,  humanly  speaking,  failure.  So  too  in 
the  case  of  even  His  most  faithful  followers  the  rapturous 
glory  of  Thabor  is  but  a  transitory  illumination  of  lives 
spent  in  obscure  Nazareth-like  drudgery  or  in  a  toilsome 
thankless  mission.  Saint  Margaret  Mary,  for  all  her 
graces,  had  as  a  novice  to  mind  the  monastery  donkeys  ; 
nor  did  God's  providence  prevent  a  windlass  from  hitting 
her  in  the  jaw  and  smashing  her  teeth.2  What  was  probably 
still  harder,  she  had  to  suffer  from  the  misunderstanding  of 
holy  people  ;  her  directors  regarded  her  as  a  visionary,  her 
sisters  opposed  what  they  considered  a  new-fangled 
devotion.3 

It  has  ever  been  thus  in  the  lives  of  those  who  have  striven 
to  follow  Christ.  "  Whosoever  does  not  carry  his  own  cross 
and  walk  in  My  steps,  can  be  no  disciple  of  Mine."  (5.  Luke 
14.  27.)  This  cross-carrying,  however,  is  not  a  public 
procession,  drawing  tears  from  the  onlooking  daughters  of 

\.~Life  of  Blessed  Margaret  Mary  Alacoque,  published  in  French  by  the 
Monastery  of  the  Visitation  of  Paray-le-Monial,  Eng.  trans.  1912  (Visitation 
Library,  Roselands,  Walmer,  Kent),  p.  60. 

2. — Ibid.  pp.  387,  127.  Compare  also  the  "tiny  little  things"  which  So2ur 
Therese  offered  to  our  Lord  :  the  annoyance  of  a  bead-rattling  sister,  the 
.splashing'  of  an  awkward  neighbour  in  the  laundry. — Sceur  The'rese  .  .  . 
Histoire  d'une  dmt>,  pp.  195!';  Eng.  trans.  ( The  Little  Flower ),  pp.  206-208. 

3. — Ibid.  pp.  77,  152  f.  Compare  Mgr.  d'Hulst's  remarks  (Vie  de  la  7'/«. 
Marie-Te"ri>se  du  Caeur  dej&us,  1917,16  p.  161) :  "At  all  times  saints  have  caused 
suffering  to  saints."  So  the  Cure  of  Ars  was  even  preached  against  by  his 
fellow-priests. — Monnin,  Life  of  the  B.  Cnn!  d'  Ars,  (Burns  &  Gates,  n.d.)  p.  136. 


SELF-CONQUEST  125 

Jerusalem  ;  it  is  a  silent  drama  enacted  in  the  private  theatre 
of  the  human  heart.  And,  as  a  rule,  the  cross  is  not  a  huge 
visible  structure,  plainly  recognisable  and  easily  reminiscent 
of  Christ ;  rather  is  it  doled  out  to  us  piecemeal,  in  mere 
matches  and  sawdust  as  it  were,  in  tiny  fragments  wherein 
only  the  eye  of  loving  faith  can  discern  the  lineaments  of 
Calvary. 

This  truth  must  not  be  forgotten  while  reading  this 
chapter.  For  it  is  easy  to  chronicle  what  is  out  of  the 
ordinary,  and  it  is  only  the  abnormal  and  artificial  that  is 
usually  committed  to  writing  ;  whereas  the  real  annals  of 
self-conquest  and  sufferings  are  garnered  only  by  the  recording 
angels.  We  shall  meet,  in  the  case  of  Fr.  Doyle,  many 
proofs  of  persevering  and  deliberately  sought  mortification, 
and  even  of  heroic  self-immolation.  But  this  must  not  blind 
us  to  the  fact  that,  beneath  this  self-imposed  apparatus  of 
suffering,  there  was  in  his  life,  as  in  ours,  a  continuous  layer 
of  petty  troubles,  pains,  discomforts,  annoyances,  disappoint 
ments,  mistakes,  misunderstandings.  These  are  God-given 
and  have  first  claim  on  us  ;  to  shirk  these  and  to  seek  out 
artificially  constructed  suffering,  like  those  nuns  gently 
satirised  by  S.  Teresa,  is  to  build  the  house  of  holiness  on 
sand.  So  while  we  are  picturing  the  spiritual  edifice  raised 
by  Fr.  Doyle,  let  us  not  forget  the  foundation  whereon  it 
was  based.  "  We  love  to  invent  penances  of  our  own," 
says  the  great  Carmelite,  alluding  to  those  fervent  souls 
whose  vain  ambition  it  is  to  erect  castles  in  the  air.  That 
Fr.  Doyle  was  not  one  of  such,  is  obvious  to  those  who  knew 
him  intimately.  It  would  indeed  be  true  to  say  that  his 
greatest  suffering  in  life  did  not  consist  at  all  in  what  is  set 
down  in  this  chapter,  but  rather  in  those  limitations  and 
disabilities,  mistakes  and  misinterpretations,  individually 
perhaps  petty  but  collectively  severe.  This  is  probably 
true  for  every  life  as  lived,  though  not  as  written  ;  it  is 
just  as  true  of  the  saints  as  of  ordinary  folk,  though  not 
every  saint  has  expressed  the  truth  with  the  blunt  precision 
of  S.  John  Berchmans :  "  My  greatest  mortification  is 
common  life." 

At  any  rate,  whether  we  invent  penances  or  whether  we 
confine  ourselves  to  the  acceptance  of  those  for  which  God 


126  FATHER  WILLIAM   DOYLE,  S.J. 

provides  endless  opportunities,  penance  we  must  do,  if  we 
wish  to  deny  ourselves,  to  take  up  our  cross  and  to  follow 
Christ.  The  spirit  of  our  time  is  delicate  and  squeamish 
and  hypersensitive  ;  the  avoidance  of  pain  and  discomfort 
has  become  a  veritable  science  as  well  as  an  industry.  Perhaps 
there  is  even  a  tendency  to  seek  anaesthetics  in  the  spiritual 
life  or  to  look  for  easy  modes  of  conveyance  along  the  royal 
road  of  the  cross  !  But  the  words  of  Christ  still  ring  true  : 
""Amen,  amen,  I  say  to  you,  unless  the  grain  of  wheat  falling 
into  the  ground  die,  itself  remaineth  alone  ;  but  if  it  die, 
it  bringeth  forth  much  fruit.  He  that  loveth  his  life  shall 
lose  it ;  and  he  that  hateth  his  life  in  this  world,  keepeth 
it  unto  life  eternal."  (5.  John  12.  24.)  These  words  not 
only  convey  a  mysterious  law  of  the  spiritual  world,  but 
enunciate  a  truth  perceptible  by  natural  reason.  Indeed, 
has  not  a  great  American  psychologist,  regarding  the  matter 
from  the  purely  natural  standpoint,  written  what  is  practically 
a  panegyric  of  the  Ignatian  agere  contra  ?  Thus  writes 
William  James  :  "  As  a  final  practical  maxim,  relative  to 
these  habits  of  the  will,  we  may,  then,  offer  something  like 
this  :  Keep  the  faculty  of  effort  alive  in  you  by  a  little  gratuitous 
exercise  every  day.  That  is,  be  systematically  ascetic  or 
heroic  in  little  unnecessary  points  ;  do  every  day  or  two 
something  for  no  other  reason  than  that  you  would  rather 
not  do  it :  so  that,  when  the  hour  of  dire  need  draws  nigh, 
it  may  find  you  not  unnerved  and  untrained  to  stand  the 
test.  Asceticism  of  this  sort  is  like  the  insurance  which  a 
man  pays  on  his  house  and  goods.  The  tax  does  him  no 
good  at  the  time,  and  possibly  may  never  bring  him  a  return. 
But,  if  the  fire  does  come,,  his  having  paid  it  will  be  his 
salvation  from  ruin.  So  with  the  man  who  has  daily  inured 
himself  to  habits  of  concentrated  attention,  energetic  volition, 
and  self-denial  in  unnecessary  things.  He  will  stand  like 
a  tower  when  everything  rocks  round  him,  and  when  his 
softer  fellow-mortals  are  winnowed  like  chaff  in  the  blast."1 

As  we  read  over  these  words,  we  realise  their  perfect 
aptness  to  Fr.  Doyle.  He  was  systematically  ascetic  or 
heroic  in  little  unnecessary  points  ;  every  day  he  did  many 
things  for  no  other  reason  than  that  he  would  rather  not 

i. — James,  Principles  of  Psychology  i.    126. 


SELF-CONQUEST  127 

do  them  ;  so  that,  when  the  hour  of  need  and  big-scale 
heroism  drew  nigh,  it  did  not  find  him  unnerved  and  untrained 
to  stand  the  test.1  For  most  assuredly  he  was  a  man  who 
daily  inured  himself  to  habits  of  concentrated  attention, 
energetic  volition,  "and  self-denial  in  unnecessary  things. 
"  Other  souls  may  travel  by  other  roads,"  he  once  wrote, 
"  the  road  of  pain  is  mine."  He  developed  a  positive 
ingenuity  in  discovering  possibilities  of  denying  himself. 
Thus  he  was  always  striving  to  bear  little  sufferings  and 
physical  discomforts — were  it  only  the  irritation  of  a  gnat — 
without  seeking  relief ;  he  tried  to  imagine  that  his  hands 
were  nailed  to  the  cross  with  Jesus.  He  gave  up  having  a 
fire  in  his  room  and  even  avoided  warming  himself  at  one. 
Every  day  he  wore  a  hair-shirt  and  one  or  two  chains  for 
some  time  ;  and  he  inflicted  severe  disciplines  on  himself 
Moreover,  between  sugarless  tea,  butterless  bread  and  saltless 
meat,  he  converted  his  meals  into  a  continuous  series  of 
mortifications. 

Naturally  he  had,  in  fact,  a  very  hearty  appetite  and  a 
keen  appreciation  of  sweets  and  delicacies  ;  all  of  which 
he  converted  into  an  arena  for  self-denial.  He  began  even 
as  a  young  boy.  When  he  and  his  brother  were  getting 
from  their  'big  sister  an  exhortation  on  kindness  and 
unselfishness,  Willie,  not  needing  much  effort  to  discover 
what  he  was  very  fond  of,  suddenly  exclaimed  :  ' '  Yes,  May, 
wouldn't  this  be  very  selfish,  if  I  got  a  pot  of  jam  and  ate 
it  all  myself  without  giving  any  of  it  to  Charlie  ?  "  A  horrible 
deed  of  gluttony  of  which  he  was  never  guilty  !  No  doubt 
his  sister's  reassuring  answer  confirmed  his  good  will  !  We 
can  realise  the  wonderful  continuity  of  his  life  when  over 
thirty  years  later  we  find  him  pencilling  this  resolution  on 
the  first  page  of  the  little  private  notebook  he  kept  with 
him  at  the  Front :  "  No  blackberries.  Give  away  all 
chocolates.  Give  away  box  of  biscuits.  No  jam,  breakfast, 
lunch,  dinner."  Some  excerpts  from  his  diary  will  enable 
us  to  realise  how  much  this  struggle  against  taste  and  appetite 
meant  to  him.  On  ist  September,  1911,  he  writes  :  "I  feel 
a  growing  thirst  for  self-denial ;  it  is  a  pleasure  not  to  taste 
the  delicacies  provided  for  me.  I  wish  I  could  give  up  the' 

i. — Compare  his  remarks  on  heroism,  pp.  27  f. 


128  FATHER  WILLIAM   DOYLE,   SJ. 

use  of  meat  entirely.  I  long  even  to  live  on  bread  and  water.  •" 
My  Jesus,  what  marvellous  graces  You  are  giving  me, 
who  always  have  been  so  fond  of  eating  and  used  to  feel  a 
small  act  of  denial  of  my  appetite  a  torture."  A  month 
later,  just  after  giving  a  retreat  in  a  Carmelite  convent,  he 
records  :  "I  felt  urged  in  honour  of  St.  Teresa  to  give  myself 
absolutely  no  comfort  at  meals  which  I  could  possibly  avoid. 
I  found  no  difficulty  in  doing  this  for  the  nine  days.  I  have 
begged  very  earnestly  for  the  grace  to  continue  this  all  my 
life  and  am  determined  to  try  to  do  so.  For  example,  to 
take  no  butter,  no  sugar  in  coffee,  no  salt,  etc.  The 
wonderful  mortified  lives  of  these  holy  nuns  have  made  me 
ashamed  of  my  gratification  of  my  appetite."  That  he  by 
no  means  found  this  mortification  easy  we  have  many 
indications.  Thus  on  5th  Jan.,  1912,  he  writes  :  "  During 
Exposition  Jesus  asked  me  if  I  would  give  up  taking  second 
course  at  dinner.  This  would  be  a  very  great  sacrifice  ; 
but  I  promised  Him  at  least  to  try  to  do  so  and  begged  for 
grace  and  generosity."  And  again  on  I4th  Sept.,  1912  : 
"  Having  again  indulged  my  appetite,  I  made  this  resolution, 
that  whenever  I  do  so,  no  matter  for  what  reason  (health, 
feasts,  etc.),  I  will  enter  it  in  the  other  book.  I  think  this 
will  be  a  check  and  a  help  to  me  to  do  what  Jesus  has  asked 
so  long — no  indulgence  whatever  in  food."  "A  fierce 
temptation  during  Mass  and  thanksgiving,"  he  records  a 
year  later  (i8th  Sept.,  1913),  "  to  break  my  resolution  and 
indulge  my  appetite  at  breakfast.  The  thought  of  a  break 
fast  of  dry  bread  and  tea  without  sugar  in  future  seemed 
intolerable.  Jesus  urged  me  to  pray  for  strength  though  I 
could  scarcely  bring  myself  to  do  so.  But  the  temptation 
left  me  in  the  refectory,  and  joy  filled  my  heart  with  the 
victory.  I  see  now  that  I  need  never  yield  if  only  I  pray 
for  strength." 

On  the  subject  of  butter  there  are  many  resolutions  in 
the   diary.      Materially   the   subject   may   seem   trivial,   but 
psychologically  it  represents  a  great  struggle  and  victory.1 
Any  habit  such   as  that   of  smoking  may  presumably    be 


i. — Compare    S.    Margaret    Mary's    eight    years    of  struggle   against    her 
repugnance  to  cheese. — Life,  p.  33. 


SELF-CONQUEST  129 

explained  in  purely  material  terms  :  the  formation  of  anti 
bodies  in  the  system  and  the  consequent  periodical  need 
of  toxins  to  restore  the  balance.  But  no  such  type  of  medical 
explanation  can  alter  the  fundamental  human  fact  that  such 
a  habit  can  be  controlled  or  abolished  by  a  sufficient  exercise 
of  will-power,  which  ordinarily  cannot  be  accomplished 
without  religious  motives.  Let  us  hope  that  old-fashioned 
Catholic  practices — for  example,  giving  up  smoking  or  doing 
without  butter  during  Lent — will  not  be  lightly  laid  aside. 
It  is  in  such  little  acts  that  man  rises  above  the  beast  and 
fosters  his  human  heritage  of  a  rational  will.  So  Fr.  Doyle's 
butter-resolutions  are  not  at  all  so  unimportant  or  whimsical 
as  they  who  have  ever  thoughtlessly  eaten  and  drunk  may 
be  inclined  to  fancy.  "  God  has  been  urging  me  strongly 
all  during  this  retreat,"  he  writes  in  September  1913,  "  to 
give  up  butter  entirely.  I  have  done  so  at  many  meals 
without  any  serious  inconvenience  ;  but  I  am  partly  held 
back  through  human  respect,  fearing  others  may  notice 
it.  If  they  do,  what  harm  ?  I  have  noticed  that  X  takes 
none  for  lunch  ;  that  has  helped  me.  Would  not  I  help 
others  if  I  did  the  same  ?  "  "  One  thing,"  he  continues, 
"  I  feel  Jesus  asks,  which  I  have  not  the  courage  to  give 
Him — the  promise  to  give  up  butter  entirely."  On  2gth 
July,  1914,  we  find  this  resolution  :  "  For  the  present  I  will 
take  butter  on  two  mouthfuls  of  bread  at  breakfast  but  none 
at  other  meals."  To  this  decision  he  seems  to  have 
adhered. 

Not  only  did  Fr.  Doyle  mortify  himself  in  the  quality  of 
the  food  he  took  but  he  also  refused  to  allow  his  appetite 
to  be  satisfied  in  quantity.  "  Towards  the  end  of  the 
retreat,"  he  wrote  on  3rd  December,  1914,  "  a  light  came 
to  me  that,  now  that  I  have  given  Jesus  all  the  sacrifices 
I  possibly  can  in  the  matter  of  food,  He  is  now  going  to  ask 
retrenchment  in  the  quantity.  So  far  I  have  not  felt  that 
He  asked  this,  but  grace  now  seems  to  urge  me  to  it.  I  dread 
what  this  means,  but  Jesus  will  give  me  strength  to  do  what 
He  wants." 

This  relentless  concentration  of  will  on  matters  of  food 
must  not  lead  us  to  suppose  that  Fr.  Doyle  was  in  any  way 
morbidly  absorbed  or  morosely  affected  thereby.  For  one 


130  FATHER  WILLIAM  DOYLE,   SJ. 

less  trained  in  will  or  less  sure  in  spiritual  perspective  there 
might  easily  be  danger  of  entanglement  in  minutiae  and 
over-attention  to  what  is  secondary.  All  this  apparatus  of 
mortification  is  but  a  means  to  an  end,  it  should  not  be  made 
an  end  in  itself.  We  must  not  be  so  '  busy  about  much 
serving,'  we  should  not  so  burden  or  worry  ourselves  about 
what  we  eat  and  drink,  that  we  are  '  careful  and  troubled 
about  many  things '  and  lose  sight  of  the  '  one  thing 
necessary ' — the  best  part  chosen  by  Mary.  (5.  Luke 
10.  40-42.)  This  persistent  and  systematic  thwarting  of 
appetite  helped  Fr.  Doyle  to  strengthen  his  will  and  to  fix 
it  on  God.  He  never  lost  himself  in  a  maze  of  petty 
resolutions,  he  never  became  anxious  or  distracted.  But 
the  armour  of  Goliath  would  hamper  David.  There  are 
those  whom  elaborate  prescriptions  and  detailed  regulations 
would  only  strain  and  worry.  And  these  best  find  the  peace 
of  God  in  a  childlike  thankful  acceptance  of  His  gifts,  without 
either  careless  indulgence  or  self-conscious  artificiality.  "  In 
everything  God  reveals  His  love  to  me,"  writes  Soeur 
Gertrude-Marie.1  "  I  was  given  a  strawberry  at  lunch. 
While  eating  it,  I  said  to  myself  :  God  was  thinking  of  me 
when  He  caused  this  fruit  to  ripen.  He  said  :  It  will  be 
for  My  child.  And  I  said :  It  will  be  for  refreshing  in  me 
the  sacred  Humanity  of  my  Saviour.  Our  love  must  be 
reciprocal.  God  gives  me  His  good  things,  I  wish  to  give 
them  back  to  Him  by  the  holy  use  I  make  of  them." 

As  with  food,  so  with  sleep.  We  have  already  seen  how 
Fr.  Doyle  often  robbed  himself  of  sleep  in  order  to  pray. 
Sometimes,  too,  he  slept  on  the  floor  or  put  boards  in  his 

bed.     "  During  the  last  three  nights  of  the retreat," 

he  writes  (20th  Dec.,  1914),  "  I  slept  on  the  floor  without 
feeling  any  inconvenience  after,  though  I  woke  very  often 
on  account  of  the  pain.  This  is  the  first  time  I  have  slept 
this  way  on  more  than  one  (successive)  night."  On  i2th 
July,  1915,  he  writes  thus  in  his  diary :  "  Not  feeling  well,  I 
gave  up  the  intention  of  sleeping  on  boards,  but  overcame 
self  and  did  so.  I  rose  this  morning  quite  fresh  and  none 
the  worse  for  it,  proving  once  more  how  our  Lord  would 

i. —  Une  mystique  de  nos  jours,  p.  454.  Of  this  work  Fr.  Doyle  once  wrote  : 
"  I  almost  grudge  lending  you  this  book,  I  have  found  it  so  helpful."  Compare 
Life  and  Revelations  ofS.  Gertrude,  1865,  pp.  380,  412. 


SELF-CONQUEST  131 

help  me  if  I  were  generous."  And  in  September,  1915,  he 
made  the  resolution  to  '  put  boards  in  his  bed  every  night 
when  at  home.' 

It  is  scarcely  necessary  to  remark  that  all  these 
mortifications  were  extremely  difficult  to  flesh  and  blood. 
There  was  no  such  thing  in  Fr.  Doyle  as  a  natural  pleasure 
or  pride  in,  or,  at  least,  indifference  to,  physical  discomfort 
and  suffering.  He  really  loathed  and  detested  the  life  which 
he  voluntarily  imposed  on  himself.  "  My  God,"  he  once 
wrote  (22nd  October,  1915),  "  this  morning  I  was  in  despair. 
After  some  days  of  relaxation  owing  partly  to  sickness,  I 
resolved  to  begin  my  life  of  crucifixion  once  more,  but  found 
I  could  not.  I  seemed  to  have  lost  all  strength  and  courage, 
and  simply  hated  the  thought  of  the  life.  Then  I  ran  to  You 
in  the  Tabernacle,  threw  myself  before  You  and  begged 
You  to  do  all  since  I  could  do  nothing.  In  a  moment  all 
was  sweet  and  easy.  What  help  and  grace  You  gave  me, 
making  me  see  clearly  that  I  must  never  again  give  up  this 
life  or  omit  to  mark  my  book."1  This  extract  not  only 
shows  us  his  natural  repugnance  but  also  reveals  the  source 
of  his  strength.  His  indomitable  determination  to  overcome 
himself  is  especially  manifested  in  an  expedient  which  he 
adopted  latterly,  namely,  binding  himself  by  a  temporary 
vow  to  do  that  which  he  felt  tempted  to  avoid.  "  Jesus 
taught  me  a  simple  way  to-day  of  conquering  the  temptation 
to  break  resolutions.  When,  for  example,  I  want  to  take 
sugar  in  my  tea,  etc.,  I  will  make  a  vow  not  to  do  so  for  that 
one  occasion,  which  will  compel  me  to  do  it,  no  matter  what 
it  may  cost.  I  know  often  I  shall  have  to  force  myself  to 
take  this  little  vow  ;  but  I  realize  that  if  only  I  can  bring 
myself  to  say  '  I  vow,'  then  all  the  conflict  raging  in  my 
soul  about  that  particular  thing  will  cease  at  once.  This 
will  be  invaluable  to  me  in  the  future."  (22nd  Feb.,  1914.) 
We  have  several  records  of  his  using  this  heroic  device. 

'  Three  times  to-day  by  making  a  vow  I  was  able  to  force 
myself  to  do  what  I  did  not  want  to  do.  Once  I  had  almost 

i. — This  he  called  "  the  book  of  little  victories."  It  is  consoling  and  human 
to  read  the  very  next  entry  (sth  Nov.) :  "  Again  for  the  past  few  days  I  have 
broken  my  resolutions  and  indulged  myself.  I  see  two  causes  of  this  :  idleness, 
not.  overcoming  my  natural  dislike  for  certain  kinds  of  work,  e.g.,  preparation 
of  sermons  ;  and  above  all,  yielding  to  depression." 


132  FATHER   WILLIAM   DOYLE,   S.J. 

to  shout  out  the  vow,  and  then  I  had  no  trouble  at  all  in 
doing  what  I  promised — to  remain  up  till  night  prayers. 
Once  the  vow  was  followed  by  a  fierce  temptation  to  break 
it,  and  a  great  regret  I  had  bound  myself.  But  again  I  had 
no  difficulty  in  doing  without  sugar,  and  much  peace  and 
strength  followed  the  victory."  (22nd  Nov.,  1914.) 

"  It  came  home  to  me  to-day  as  it  never  did  before,  the 
immense  help  little  vows  would  be.  By  this  means  I  can 
force  myself  to  do  almost  anything ;  and  (such  little  vows) 
being  taken  for  one  occasion  only,  e.g.  I  will  not  read  a  paper 
to-day,  are  quite  easy  to  keep.  I  have  gained  several  victories 
by  this  means.  I  have  noticed  that  there  is  often  great 
difficulty  in  forcing  myself  to  make  the  vow,  but  very  little 
in  carrying  it  out." 

It  does  not  appear  that  this  rather  drastic  procedure  ever 
led  to  anxiety  or  scrupulosity.  Fr.  Doyle  had  thought 
things  out  clearly ;  he  knew  exactly  what  he  wanted  and 
what  he  could  do.  He  retained  the  militant  enthusiasm  of 
his  boyhood.  Whenever  he  met  an  obstacle  in  his  spiritual 
life  and  found  himself  shying  at  it,  he — to  use  an  expressive 
phrase — took  himself  by  the  back  of  the  neck  and  threw 
himself  over.  And,  wonderful  to  relate,  he  did  it  all  with 
the  zest  of  a  youth  in  a  cross-country  race.1  His  acts 
of  self-conquest  were  not  a  cold  calculated  succession  of 
deliberate  inhibitions,  nor  was  his  ideal  mere  apathy  or 
dehumanised  perfection.  In  real  Christian  asceticism  and 
mysticism  there  is  always  a  joyous  note,  a  paradoxical 
combination  of  gaiety  and  pain.  "  What  are  God's  servants," 
asked  S.  Francis  of  Assisi,2  "but  His  troubadours  who  seek 
to  uplift  men's  hearts  and  to  move  them  to  spiritual  joy?  " 


i. — Compare  this  entry  in  his  diary  (i7th  January,  1912) :   "Our  Lord  wants 
me 

sacrifice 
but 

2. — Speculum  Perjcctionis,  c.  100. 


LIFE   OF  IMMOLATION  133 

(2.)  LIFE  OF   IMMOLATION. 
A .     Introduction. 


We  have  hitherto  regarded  Fr.  Doyle's  penance  somewhat 
after  the  plain  matter-of-fact  way  in  which  St.  Ignatius 
deliberately  treats  it  in  his  Spiritual  Exercises.  Penance  is 
designed  to  overcome  passion  and  to  assert  the  supremacy 
of  the  right  will.  Of  course,  this  must  not  be  understood 
in  the  sense  of  a  merely  naturalistic  stoicism  ;  for  the  super 
natural  motive  and  the  action  of  grace  have  been  apparent 
all  through.  No  one  is  likely  to  adopt  systematic  self-denial 
just  because  he  wants  to  improve  the  relations  of  soul  and 
body.  It  is  only  religion  which  can  inspire,  vitalise,  and 
ennoble  the  conquest  of  self.  But  even  this  admission 
leaves  our  analysis  of  penance  exceedingly  incomplete.  What 
we  have  quoted  from  St.  Ignatius  would  not  suffice,  for 
instance,  to  explain  his  own  practice.  Neither  will  it  throw 
much  light  on  Fr.  Doyle's  life.  Beyond  all  these  terms  of 
will  and  passion,  of  reason  and  sensuality,  there  is  something 
ineffably  deeper  and  more  mysterious  in  the  economy  of 
penance  and  suffering.  The  Christian  view  of  sin  presupposes 
the  reality  of  the  moral  order  of  which  sin  is  a  violation,  it 
implies  the  necessity  of  atonement  by  an  inscrutable  law 
of  holiness  which  is  of  the  essence  of  God's  nature.  The 
pagan  lightly  says  :  "  Why  should  I  be  afraid  of  any  of  my 
errors,  when  I  can  say,  See  that  you  do  it  no  more,  now  I 
forgive  you."1  Far  different  is  the  language  of  the 
Christian.  Christ  came  "  to  give  His  life  as  a  ransom  for 
all  "  (S.  Matthew  20.  28)  ;  He  "  died  for  our  sins  "  (I  Cor. 
15.  3)  ;  '"  His  ownself  bore  our  sins  in  His  body  upon  the 
tree,  that  we  being  dead  to  Sins  should  live  to  justice." 
(/  Peter  2.  24.)  "  Unto  you,"  says  St.  Paul  (Phil.  i.  29), 
"it  is  given  for  Christ,  not  only  to  believe  in  Him  but  also 
to  suffer  for  Him."  "I  fill  up,"  he  says,  "  those  things 
that  are  wanting  of  the  sufferings  of  Christ,  in  my  flesh, 

i. — Seneca,  De  ira,  iii.  36.  3. 


134  FATHER  WILLIAM  DOYLE,  SJ. 

for  His  Body  which  is  the  Church."  (Col  i.  24.)  We 
cannot  adequately  explain  in  words  nor  can  we  by  general 
reasoning  reach  the  profound  and  mysterious  process  of 
reconciliation  with  God.  But  the  Atonement  of  Christ, 
viewed  in  the  light  of  faith,  enables  us  to  perceive  the  inner 
nature  of  sin  and  redemption.  "  Mere  repentance,"  says 
St.  Athanasius,1  "  would  not  maintain  what  is  reasonable 
with  respect  to  God  ....  nor  does  it  recover  man  from 
his  (corrupt)  nature ;  it  simply  means  cessation  from  acts 
of  sin.  If  sin  were  merely  a  wrongdoing  and  involved  no 
consequent  corruption,  repentance  might  well  suffice.  But 
this  is  not  the  case.  When  once  transgression  had  begun, 
man  fell  into  the  power  of  a  corrupt  nature  and  lost  the  grace 
of  being  in  God's  image."  Our  redemption  was  effected 
only  when  Christ  "  taking  from  our  bodies  one  of  like  nature, 
gave  it  over  to  death  in  the  stead  of  all  and  offered  it  to  the 
Father.  And  this  He  did  out  of  love  for  man.  His  purpose 
therein  was  twofold,  (i)  As  we  all  died  in  Him,  His  death 
was  to  annul  the  law  due  to  man's  corruption,  since  its 
authority  was  fully  vindicated  in  the  Lord's  body  and  no 
longer  held  against  men  of  like  nature.  (2)  As  men  had 
orignally  turned  to  corruption,  He  might  now  turn  them  to 
incorruption  and  quicken  them  from  death  to  life,  by  His 
appropriation  of  a  human  body  and  by  the  grace  of  His 
resurrection."  Thus  we  see  from  the  glorious  dogma  of  our 
Redemption  that  Christ's  assumption  of  our  humanity 
implies  a  wondrous  solidarity  and  mystic  union  between  us 
and  Him.2  As  we  can  see  in  the  life  of  Saint  Margaret 
Mary  Alacoque,  it  is  of  the  very  essence  of  the  devotion  to 
the  Sacred  Heart  that  chosen  souls  are  specially  privileged 
to  share  in  this  redemptive  work  and  to  fill  up  those  things 
that  are  wanting  of  the  sufferings  of  Christ.  And  indeed 
not  only  privileged  souls  but  all  Christians  are  invited  by 
the  Church  to  add  their  prayers  and  penances  to  the  sufferings 
of  our  Redeemer  for  the  conversion  of  sinners,  to  unite  in 
loving  adoration  and  thus  atone  for  outrage  and  sin.  The 
devotion  of  the  Forty  Hours,  instituted  by  Clement  VIII 

i. — De  incamatione,  vii.  3  ;   viii.  4. 

2. — Compare  St.  Thomas's  teaching  that  there  is  a  real  physical  efficiency  in 
Christ's  passion  and  resurrection. — Summa,  p.  3,  948,  a  6,  ad  2;  956,  a  i,  ad  3, 


LIFE  OF  IMMOLATION  135 

in  1592,  the  cult  of  the  Sacred  Heart,  the  founding  of  special 
religious  congregations1  and  sodalities,  the  lives  of  the  more 
recent  saints  and  servants  of  God,  all  bear  witness  to  the 
prominence  of  the  idea  of  reparation  in  the  Church  to-day. 
If  this  cooperation  were  regarded  as  injuring  the  mediation 
of  Christ,  Luther  would  have  been  right  against  the  Council 
of  Trent  and  works  would  not  count  for  justification.  If 
the  expiation  of  the  just,  quickened  by  our  Saviour's  merits, 
cannot  be  offered  for  the  sinner,  the  Communion  of  Saints 
is  not  a  reality.  And  it  is  only  by  thus  entering  into  this 
mystic  communion  and  as  it  were  '  pooling '  our  sufferings 
and  prayers,  that  we  can  escape  from  narrow  individualism 
and  depressing  isolation.  "  For  them  do  I  sanctify  myself, 
that  they  also  may  be  sanctified  in  truth.  And  not  for  them 
only  do  I  pray,  but  for  them  also  who  through  their  word 
shall  believe  in  Me,  that  they  all  may  be  one  ;  that  as  Thou, 
Father,  art  in  Me  and  I  in  Thee,  so  they  also  may  be 
in  Us  .  .  .  ;  I  in  them  and  Thou  in  Me,  that  they  be  made 
perfect  in  one."  (S.  John  17.  19-23.) 

This  ideal  of  reparation  and  suffering,  this  implied  mystic 
oneness  with  Christ,  is,  of  course,  intuitively  felt  and  lived, 
rather  than  theorised  and  reasoned  about  by  pious  souls. 
Expressed  in  terms  of  our  personal  relation  to  our  Lord,  it 
at  once  appeals  to  those  with  living  faith.  "  If  any  man 
will  come  after  Me,  let  him  deny  himself  and  take  up  his 
cross  daily  and  follow  Me.  For  whosoever  will  save  his 
life,  shall  lose  it ;  and  whosoever  for  My  sake  shall  lose  his 
life,  shall  save  it."  (S.  Luke  9.  23.)  This  following  of  Christ 
was  even  incorporated  by  St.  Ignatius  into  his  Constitutions  :  2 
"  Those  who  are  advancing  in  spirit  and  seriously  following 

i. — The  Congregations  of  the  Adoration  Rdparatrice  and  of  Marie  Rdparatrice, 
the  Society  of  the  Filles  du  Cceur  dejdsus. 

2. — Summarium  Constitutionum  S.J.,  1 1-12.  This  ideal  of  Christlike  imitation 
and  atonement  is  really  distinct  from  the  ordinary  idea  of  asceticism  or  morti 
fication.  "There  is  in  Catholic  sanctity  a  sacrifice  of  the  body  which  could 
not  be  called  mortification  though  it  resembles  mortification.  It  is  not  intended 
as  a  protection  to  purity,  as  an  exercise  of  courage,  but  as  a  holocaust  to  God, 
as  an  atonement  for  personal  sin  or  for  the  sin  of  mankind.  Such  are  the  most 
adorable  of  all  suffering's,  the  sufferings  of  Christ  on  the  Cross.  Sufferings  of 
that  kind  do  not  come  under  the  heading-  of  mortification.  Their  explanation 
is  more  theological  than  psychological.  There  have  been  sufferings  of  that 
kind  in  the  lives  of  the  saints,  whose  desire  it  was  to  resemble  Christ  crucified, 
to  renew  in  their  bodies  the  sufferings  of  Christ." — Abbot  A.  Vonier,  The 
Human  Soul,  1913,  p.  129. 


136  FATHER   WILLIAM   DOYLE,   SJ. 

Christ  our  Lord  love  and  ardently  desire  what  is  altogether 
contrary  to  the  things  of  the  world,  namely,  to  be  clothed 
with  the  same  garment  and  insignia  as  their  Master,  for  His 
love  and  reverence.  .  .  .  The  better  to  attain  to  this 
precious  degree  of  perfection  in  the  spiritual  life,  let  it  be 
the  great  and  earnest  endeavour  of  each  one  to  seek  in  the 
Lord  his  greater  abnegation  and,  as  far  as  he  can,  his  continual 
mortification  in  all  things." 

In  the  Spiritual  Exercises,  too,  once  the  First  Week  is 
passed,  we  find  an  ideal  rising  far  above  the  ascetic  aim  of 
penance.  S.  Ignatius  will  have  his  exercitant  aspire  to  the 
mystic  chivalrous  following  of  the  great  Leader,  "  in  the 
highest  degree  of  poverty  of  spirit,  and  not  less  in  actual 
poverty  if  it  please  His  divine  Majesty,"  aye,  even  "  in 
bearing  reproaches  and  insults,  the  better  to  imitate  Him 
in  these."1  This  message,  to-day  so  uniquely  characteristic 
of  Catholicism,  is  a  triumphant  vindication  of  our  continuity 
with  the  early  Church  and  of  the  ever-living  reality  of  the 
Redemption.  "  Unto  this  you  are  called,"  says  S.  Peter, 
he  who  like  his  Master  was  to  stretch  forth  his  hands  for 
another  to  gird  him  (5.  John  21.  18),  "  because  Christ  also 
suffered  for  us,  leaving  you  an  example  that  you  should 
follow  His  steps."  (/  Peter  2.  21.)  '  We  suffer,"  says  the 
other  S.  Ignatius,  martyred  at  Rome  under  Trajan,2  "  we 
suffer  that  we  may  be  found  disciples  of  Jesus  Christ  our 
only  Teacher." 

In  the  order  of  time,  indeed,  Christ  suffers  no  more.  In 
His  personal  humanity  He  can  no  longer  endure  pain  and 
humiliation.  But  we,  His  mystical  Body,  can.  '  The 
Church  is  His  Body  and  the  completing  of  Him  who  fills 
all  in  all."  (Ephes.  i.  23.)  Hence  it  is  that  S.  Paul  could 
say,  as  already  cited  :  "  I  fill  up  those  things  that  are  wanting 
of  the  sufferings  of  Christ,  in  my  flesh,  for  His  Body  which 
is  the  Church.  (Col.  i.  24.)  And  this  function,  this 
association  in  the  redemptive  work  of  Jesus  Christ,  is  not 
an  ideal  applicable  merely  to  great  saints  and  mystics  ;  it 
is  a  function  to  be  filled  by  all  true  Christians,  each  in  his 
measure  filling  up  the  lacunae,  every  good  life  linking  itself 

I. — The  Two  Standards— Spiritual  Exercises,  p.  47. 
2. — Ep,  to  Magnesians,  9.  i. 


LIFE   OF  IMMOLATION  137 

up  into  the  wondrous  unity  of  the  moral  order.  Though 
we  may  not  always  advert  to  it,  when  we  speak  of  the 
imitation  of  Christ  and  of  reparation  to  the  Sacred  Heart, 
we  are  presupposing  this  prolongation  and  extension  of  the 
Saviour's  life  into  ours. 

The  first  great  revelation  of  the  Heart  of  Jesus  is  contained 
in  the  seventh  chapter  of  S.  Luke's  Gospel.  "  Dost  thou 
see  this  woman?  "  said  Christ  to  Simon.  "  I  entered  into 
thy  house,  thou  gavest  Me  no  water  for  My  feet — but  she 
with  tears  hath  washed  My  feet  and  with  her  hair  hath 
wiped  them.  Thou  gavest  Me  no  kiss — but  she,  since  she 
came  in,  hath  not  ceased  to  kiss  My  feet.  My  head  with 
oil  thou  didst  not  anoint — but  she  with  ointment  hath  anointed 
My  feet.  .  .  .  She  hath  loved  much."  This  detailed 
antithesis,  this  careful  balancing  of  neglect  with  service, 
this  sensitive  juxtaposition  of  Simon  and  Magdalen  in  the 
Heart  of  Christ,  contains  the  essence  of  the  idea  of  reparation. 
That  is,  if  our  Lord's  life  and  mission  is  more  than  a  simple 
historical  event  and  is  still  accessible  to  us  who  live  in  these 
latter  days.1  Many  a  Simon  nowadays  treats  Christ  with 
studied  slight  and  scorn,  and  we — is  the  role  of  Magdalen 
closed  to  us  ?  Cannot  Christ  still  address  the  sinner, 
'  Thou  ....  but  she  .  .  .  ?  "  Cannot  our  loving 
much  prevail  and  repair  ?  And  to  the  solitary  adorer  does 
there  not  still  from  the  Tabernacle  come  the  whisper,  "  The 
nine — where  are  they  ?  "  (5.  Luke  17.  17.) 

The  Gethsemane  agony  has  passed  nigh  two  thousand 
years  ago.  Yet  here  is  the  message  to  S.  Margaret  Mary  : 
"  Every  night  between  Thursday  and  Friday  I  will  make 
thee  share  in  the  mortal  sadness  which  I  was  pleased  to  feel 
in  the  Garden  of  Olives.  ...  In  order  to  bear  Me 
company,  .  .  .  thou  shalt  rise  between  eleven  o'clock  and 
midnight  and  remain  prostrate  with  Me  for  an  hour,  not 
only  to  appease  the  divine  anger  by  begging  mercy  for  sinners, 
but  also  to  mitigate  in  some  way  the  bitterness  which  I  felt 
at  that  time  on  finding  Myself  abandoned  by  My  apostles, 
which  obliged  Me  to  reproach  them  for  not  being  able  to 
watch  one  hour  with  Me."'2 

i. — See  also  pp.  IO5/. 

2.— Life  of  Bl.  Margaret  Mary  Alacogiie(P'Ara,y-\e-Non\i\\},  Eng.  trans.  [1912], 
p.  68.     On  the  Holy  Hour  see  above  p.  107. 


138  FATHER  WILLIAM  DOYLE,   S.J. 

Since  the  day  on  which  "  they  laid  the  cross  "  on  Simon 
of  Cyrene  "  to  carry  after  Jesus  "  (5.  Luke  23.  26),  many 
a  faithful  one  has  sprung  forward  to  carry  the  Master's 
cross.  And  shall  we  say,  Too  late  ?  Is  the  Cyrenaean  alone 
to  be  Christ's  cross-bearer  ?  Surely,  that  were  to  deny  the 
eternal  significance  and  ever-present  reality  of  Christ's 
Sacrifice.1  Does  not  Paul  himself  declare  "  I  have  been 
crucified  with  Christ  "  (Gal.  2.  20)  ?  And  he  added  signi 
ficantly  :  "  So  it  is  no  longer  I  who  live,  but  it  is  Christ 
who  lives  in  me." 

It  is  only  in  the  light  of  these  considerations  that  we  can 
properly  appreciate  the  lives  of  the  saints.  These  few 
remarks  will  also  help  us  to  understand  that  thirst  for  suffering 
and  desire  of  reparation  which  are  so  prominent  on  every 
.page  of  Fr.  Doyle's  inner  life.  As  S.  Catherine  of  Siena 
remarks,2  "  one  virtue  belongs  especially  to  one  man  and 
another  to  another,  and  yet  they  all  remain  in  charity." 
Though  Fr.  Doyle's  character  was  manysided  and  eclectic, 
the  ideal  which  more  and  more  attracted  him  in  the  later 
years  of  his  life  was  that  of  sacrificial  self-immolation.  Men 
have  characteristic  virtues  just  as  they  have  predominant 
faults  ;  in  good  as  in  evil  we  are  all  more  or  less  specialists. 
In  a  very  real  sense  every  soul  is  unique,  no  two  of  us  are 
exactly  alike  ;  hence  there  can  be  no  question  of  mechanically 
reproducing  another's  life  in  our  own.  This  diversity  in 
unity  is  apparent  even  within  the  same  religious  Order.3 
Thus  while  many  of  Fr.  Doyle's  fellow-religious  would  doubt 
less  envisage  life  from  a  different  angle,  to  him  the  great 
message  which  inspired  and  explained  his  life-vocation 
was  our  Lord's  saying  to  S.  Margaret  Mary  :  "I  seek  a 
victim  to  My  Heart  which  will  immolate  itself  as  a  holocaust 


i.— So  it  is  said  of  sinners  that  they  "  are  fallen  away  ...  crucifying  again 
to  themselves  the  Son  of  God  and  making  Him  a  mockery." — Heb.  6.  6. 

2.— Thorold,  The  Dialogue  of  the  Seraphic  Virgin  Catherine  of  Siena,  19072, 
p.  297  ;  cf.  p.  46.  S.  Teresa  was  emphatic  that  "  our  Lord  leads  souls  on  by 
different  roads." — Foundations,  18.  6. 

3. — Compare,  for  instance,  with  the  better  known  Jesuit  Saints,  such  members 
of  the  Society  as  Fathers  Alvarez  and  Surin,  the  V'en.  Emmanuel  Padial(t  172.5) 
who  fell  into  a  rapture  at  the  mention  of  crib  or  stable,  the  Ven.  Bernard  de 
Hoyos(t  1735),  a  wondrous  mystic  and  the  first  apostle  of  the  Sacred  Heart  in 
Spain.  See  the  remarks  made  above,  p.  36. 


LIFE  OF  IMMOLATION  139 

to  the  accomplishment  of  My  designs."1  This  ideal  of 
reparation,  and  in  particular  this  special  offering  as  a  victim 
of  immolation,  is  thoroughly  in  accord  with  the  mind  of  the 
Church.  Pope  Leo  XIII,  for  example,  says  in  one  of  his 
encyclicals  :2 

"  It  is  most  fitting  that  Catholics  should  by  a  great  spirit 
of  faith  and  holiness  make  reparation  for  the  depravity 
of  views  and  actions  and  show  publicly  that  nothing  is 
dearer  to  them  than  the  glory  of  God  and  the  religion  of 
their  fathers.  Let  those  especially  who  are  more  strictly 
bound  to  God,  those  who  live  in  religion,  rouse  themselves 
more  generously  to  charity  and  strive  to  propitiate  the  divine 
Majesty  by  their  humble  prayers,  their  voluntary  sacrifices 
and  the  offering  of  themselves." 

Moreover,  this  ideal  of  a  victim  of  reparation  has  in  the 
case  of  several  religious  institutes  been  specially  approved 
by  Rome.3  Indeed  it  is  but  the  perfect  and  logical  develop 
ment  of  the  devotion  to  the  Sacred  Heart  which  seems  almost 
to  have  been  reserved  for  this  age  of  dwindling  faith  and 
cooling  charity.4 


i. — Life  p.  35.  It  is  significant  to  note  that  S.  Francis  de  Sales  had  already- 
declared  that  "the  daughters  of  the  Visitation  .  .  .  are  victims  of  sacrifice 
and  living  holocausts." — Letters  to  Persons  in  Religion,  Eng.  trans.  1901 3, 
p.  105.  Compare  also  Sister  Gertrude  Mary  (Eng.  trans,  of  abridged  French 
edition,  p.  24)  :  "I  appoint  you  My  victim  of  reparation — the  victim  of  My 
choice." 

2. — Nobilissima  Gallorum  Gens,  8  Feb.,  1884. — Lettres  apostoliques  i.  238. 
See  also  the  special  Brief  (6  March,  1883)  given  in  Mgr.  d'Hulst's  pamphlet 
L adoration  re"paratrice  et  nationale,  Lille.  1884. 

3. — Thus  the  specially  approved  Constitutions  of  the  Benedictines  of  Perpetual 
Adoration,  "  I  vow  and  promise  ....  zealously  to  preserve  the  perpetual 
adoration  and  worship  of  the  Most  Holy  Sacrament  of  the  Altar,  as  a  victim 
immolated  to  Its  glory."  (58,  23).  On  3rd  Feb.  1908,  the  Institute  of  the 
"Daughters  or  Victims  of  the  Sacred  Heart  of  Jesus"  received  formal 
approval. 

4.— Cf.  the  work  of  P&re  Calage,  S  J.,  at  Marseilles  (1846-66)  as  director  of 
"  ames  victimes  "  and  his  stimulus  to  the  foundation  of  the  Societe  des  filles 
du  Cosur  de  Jesus. — Laplace,  La  Mere  Marie  de  Jfeus,  new  ed.  1906,  pp.  121  ff. 
See  also  Fr.  Doyle's  letters  of  direction  pp.  193^ 


140  FATHER   WILLIAM   DOYLE,   SJ. 


B.     Father  Doyle's  Notes. 

It  is  only  when  we  see  this  ideal  of  reparation  carried  out 
to  a  degree  of  heroic  intensity  in  the  life  of  one  who  has 
lived  in  our  midst,  that  we  realise  its  surpassing  strength 
and  beauty.  And  perhaps  by  thus  witnessing  this  ennoble 
ment  of  suffering,  we  shall  be  aided  to  purge  our  own  lives 
of  sordid  repining  and  fretful  grumbling  and  to  see  in  every 
form  of  pain  an  ally  instead  of  an  enemy,  to  enlarge  our 
souls  by  the  sane  and  social  mysticism  of  reparation.  "  It 
is  quite  true,"  writes  Mgr.  d'Hulst,1  "  that  reparation  under 
lies  all  real  interior  life.  But  you  know  the  difference  between 
acknowledging  a  truth  with  the  intelligence  and  discovering 
it  within  one's  heart.  This  discovery — delayed  no  doubt  by 
many  infidelities,  by  a  too  external  life,  a  life  too  busied 
with  outward  things — I  am  beginning  to  make  on  my  own 
account,  after  having  made  it  more  than  once  for  other 
people." 

It  was  during  his  1909  retreat  that  the  ideal  of  a  life  of 
absolute  self-sacrifice  and  reparatory  suffering  came  home 
to  Fr.  Doyle  with  full  conviction  and  clearness.  "  I  am 
more  and  more  convinced,"  he  writes,  "  that  Jesus  is  asking 
from  me  the  complete  and  absolute  sacrifice  of  every 
gratification,  pleasure,  self-indulgence  and  comfort,  which 
within  the  Rule  and  without  injuring  my  health  or  work 
I  can  give  Him.  I  have  never  before  felt  such  a  strong 
desire  or  such  supernatural  help  to  make  and  keep  this 
resolution.  Looked  at  in  the  bulk  it  appals  me,  but  taken 
moment  by  moment,  there  is  nothing  which  I  cannot  do. 
By  the  grace  of  God  I  can  do  all  things."  "  I  can  honestly 
say,"  the  journal  continues,  "  I  do  not  think  of  any  sacrifice 
possible  for  me  to  make,  which  I  have  not  written  down 
at  the  end  of  this  book,-  so  that  now  for  the  first  time  in  my 
life  I  have  given  my  Jesus  absolutely  everything  I  think 
He  asks  from  me.  Already  I  taste  the  reward  in  the  deep 

i. —  The  Way  of  the  Heart:  Letters  of  Direction,  Eng.  trans.  1913,  p-  56. 
2. — Apparently  the  resolutions  (only  partly  extant)  quoted  on  p.  90. 


LIFE   OF   IMMOLATION  141 

peace  and  happiness  I  experience  and  in  the  growing  desire 
to  be  more  and  more  generous  in  giving.  This  time  of 
consolation  I  know  will  not  last  always,  but  I  am  ready 
for  the  storm,  trusting  in  God's  grace,  for  all  this  is  His 
work  and  He  will  never  fail  me.  .  .  .  There  must  be 
no  going  back  now  even  in  little  things,  no  truce,  no  yielding 
to  nature,  till  death."  This  retreat  before  his  last  vows 
(Feb.  1909)  Fr.  Doyle  always  called  his  "  conversion."  In 
his  next  retreat  (Sept.  1910)  he  was  able  to  record  a  distinct 
advance  :  "  The  past  eighteen  months  have  shown  me  that 
with  the  help  of  God's  grace,  sacrifices,  which  formerly  I 
thought  utterly  impossible,  were  easy  enough.  This  fills  me 
with  confidence  to  face  others  which  I  have  been  afraid  of 
up  to  this."  "  I  must,  therefore,"  he  concluded,  "  eagerly 
welcome  every  little  pain,  suffering,  small  sickness,  trouble, 
cross  of  any  kind,  as  coming  straight  to  me  from  the  Sacred 
Heart.  Am  I  not  Your  loving  victim,  my  Jesus  ?  I  must 
remember  also  my  compact — anything  to  become  a  saint." 

At  Limerick,  on  the  Feast  of  the  Holy  Family  (22nd  Jan.) 
1911,  Fr.  Doyle  wrote  down  (or  rather  typed)  in  the  form 
of  an  intimate  spontaneous  prayer  a  further  elaboration  of 
his  ideal  of  self-immolation.  It  is  at  once  pathetically 
human,  magnificently  heroic,  and  intensely  practical : 

"  My  dear  loving  Jesus  what  do  You  want  from  me  ? 
You  never  seem  to  leave  me  alone — thank  You  ever  so  much 
for  that — but  keep  on  asking,  asking,  asking.  I  have  tried 
to  do  a  good  deal  lately  for  You  and  have  made  many  little 
sacrifices  which  have  cost  me  a  good  deal,  but  You  do  not 
seem  to  be  satisfied  with  me  yet  and  want  more. 

"  The  same  thought  is  ever  haunting  me,  coming  back 
again  and  again  ;  fight  as  I  will,  I  cannot  get  away  from  it 
or  conceal  from  myself  what  it  is  You  really  want.  I  realise 
it  more  and  more  every  day.  But,  my  sweet  Jesus,  I  am 
so  afraid,  I  am  so  cowardly,  so  fond  of  myself  and  my  own 
comfort,  that  I  keep  hesitating  and  refusing  to  give  in  to 
You  and  to  do  what  You  want. 

"  Let  me  tell  You  what  I  think  this  is.  You  want  me  to 
immolate  myself  to  Your  pleasure ;  to  become  Your  victim 
by  self-inflicted  suffering ;  to  crucify  myself  in  every  way 
I  can  think  of ;  never  if  possible  to  be  without  some  pain 


142  FATHER  WILLIAM  DOYLE,   S.J. 

or  discomfort ;  to  die  to  myself  and  to  my  love  of  ease  and 
comfort ;  to  give  myself  the  necessaries  of  life  but  no  more 
(and  I  think  these  could  be  largely  reduced  without  injury 
to  my  health)  ;  to  crucify  my  body  in  every  way  I  can  think 
of,  bearing  heat,  cold,  little  sufferings,  without  relief, 
constantly,  if  possible  always,  wearing  some  instrument  of 
penance ;  to  crucify  my  appetite  by  trying  to  take  as  little 
delicacies  as  possible ;  to  crucify  my  eyes  by  a  vigilant 
guard  over  them ;  to  crucify  my  will  by  submitting  it  to 
others  ;  to  give  up  all  comfort,  all  self-indulgence  ;  to  sacrifice 
iny  love  of  ease,  love  for  sleep  at  unusual  times ;  to  work, 
to  toil  for  souls,  to  suffer,  to  pray  always.  My  Jesus,  am  I 
not  right,  is  not  this  what  You  want  from  me  and  have 
asked  so  long  ? 

"  I  feel  it  is.  For  the  thought  of  such  a  life,  so  naturally 
terrifying,  fills  me  with  joy,  for  I  know  I  could  not  do  one 
bit  of  it  myself  but  that  it  will  all  be  the  work  of  Your  grace 
and  love.  I  have  found,  too,  that  the  more  I  give,  the  more 
I  do,  the  more  I  suffer,  the  greater  becomes  this  longing. 

"  Jesus,  you  know  my  longing  to  become  a  saint.  You 
know  how  much  I  thirst  to  die  a  martyr.  Help  me  to  prove 
that  I  am  really  in  earnest  by  living  this  life  of  martyrdom. 

0  loving  Jesus,  help  me  now  not  to  fight  any  longer  against 
You.     I  really  long  to  do  what  You  want,  but  I  know  my 
weakness  so   well  and  my  inconstancy.     I  have  made  so 
many  generous  resolutions  which  I  have  never  kept  that 

1  feel  it  is  almost  a  mockery  to  promise  more.     This  record 
of  my  feelings  and  desire  at  this  moment  will  be  a  spur  to 
my  generosity ;    and  if  I  cannot  live  up  to  the  perfection  of 
what  You  want,  at  least  I  am  now  determined  to  do  more 
than  I  have  ever  done  before.     Help  me,  Jesus  ! 

"  This  light  has  come  to  me  now : 

(1)  Try  to  live  this  life  for  one  day,  at  least  now  and 
again  ;   this  will  show  you  it  is  not  impossible. 

(2)  Do  what  the  Holy  Ghost  suggests,  at  once — '  Make 
this  little  sacrifice,'  '  Do  this,'  '  Don't  do  that/  etc." 

A  fortnight  later  (5th  February,  1911),  he  thus  records  "  a 
great  grace "  :  "  To-day  while  praying  in  the  Chapel, 
suddenly  it  seemed  to  me  as  if  I  were  standing  before  a 
narrow  path  all  choked  with  briars  and  sharp  thorns.  Jesus 


LIFE  OF  IMMOLATION  143 

was  beside  me  with  a  large  cross  and  I  heard  Him  ask  me 
would  I  strip  myself  of  all  things,  and  naked  as  He  was  on 
Calvary,  take  that  cross  on  my  bare  shoulders  and  bravely 
fight  my  way  to  the  end  of  the  road.  I  realised  clearly 
that  this  would  mean  much  suffering  and  that  very  soon 
my  flesh  would  be  torn  and  bleeding  from  the  thorns.  All 
the  same,  humbly  I  promised  Him,  that,  relying  on  His 
grace,  I  would  not  shrink  from  what  He  asked,  and  even 
begged  Him  to  drag  me  through  these  briars  since  I  am  so 
cowardly.  This  inspiration,  coming  so  soon  after  the  ardent 
desire  really  to  crucify  myself,  shows  me  clearly  what  kind 
of  life  Jesus  is  asking  from  me.  I  felt  impelled  to  resolve 
as  far  as  possible  never  to  be  without  some  slight  bodily 
suffering,  e.g.  chain  on  arm,  etc.  I  have  also  made  a  vow 
twice  (binding  for  one  day)  to  refuse  on  that  day  no  sacrifice 
which  I  really  feel  my  Jesus  asks  from  me.  All  this  has 
given  me  great  interior  peace  and  happiness,  with  fresh 
courage  and  determination  to  become  a  saint."  He 
characteristically  adds,  "  Life  is  too  short  for  a  truce." 

Once  more  (loth  March,  1911),  he  felt  an  impetuous  urging 
towards  this  life  which,  humanly  speaking,  was  so  motiveless 
and  repellent. 

"  This  morning  (he  writes)  during  meditation  I  again 
felt  that  mysterious  appeal  from  our  Blessed  Lord  for  a  life 
of  absolute,  complete  sacrifice  of  every  comfort.  I  see  and  feel 
now,  without  a  shadow  of  a  doubt,  as  certainly  as  if  Jesus 
Himself  appeared  and  spoke  to  me,  that  He  wants  me  to 
give  up  now  and  for  ever  all  self-indulgence,  to  look  on  myself 
as  not  being  free  in  the  matter.  That  being  so  how  can 
I  continue  my  present  manner  of  life,  of  a  certain  amount 
of  generosity,  fervent  one  day  and  then  the  next  day  giving 
in  to  self  in  everything  ? 

"  When  a  little  unwell,  or  when  I  have  a  slight  headache. 
I  lie  down,  give  up  work,  indulge  myself  in  the  refectory. 
I  see  that  I  lose  immensely  by  this,  for  that  is  the  time  of 
great  merit,  and  Jesus  sends  me  that  pain  to  bear  for  Him. 

"  One  thing  keeps  me  back  from  a  life  of  generosity — a 
cowardly  fear  of  injuring  my  health,  persuading  myself  I 
may  interfere  with  my  work.  Why  not  leave  all  this  in 
God's  hands  and  trust  in  Him  ?  If  the  saints  had  listened 


144  FATHER  WILLIAM   DOYLE,   SJ. 

to  human  prudence,  they  would  never  have  been  saints."1 

We  have  already  seen  that  Fr.  Doyle  had  once  or  twice 
made  a  vow  binding  him  for  that  day  to  refuse  Jesus  no 
sacrifice.  Clearly  it  is  only  one  with  very  explicit  inspirations 
and  promptings  who  could  make  such  a  vow  without 
ambiguities  or  scruples.  Fr.  Doyle  proceeded  cautiously 
step  by  step  ;  and  while  anxious  to  strengthen  his  will,  he 
was  careful  to  avoid  burdening  himself  with  doubts  and 
worries.  We  gather  this  from  what  he  writes  on  the  Feast 
of  St.  Mary  Magdalen,  1911  : 

"  This  morning  I  made  a  vow  for  three  days  (then  renewed 
it  for  two  more)  to  refuse  Jesus  no  sacrifice  or  act  of  self- 
denial  which  I  honestly  think  He  asks  from  me.  If  at  all 
doubtful,  I  am  to  consider  myself  not  bound  by  the  vow. 
For  a  long  time  I  have  felt  impelled  to  do  something  of  the 
kind,  but  only  to-day  got  light  to  see  how  to  avoid 
scrupulosity,  by  leaving  myself  free,  unless  I  feel  quite  con 
vinced  I  should  make  the  sacrifice.  I  did  not  experience 
the  difficulty  I  expected  in  carrying  this  out,  but  realised 
what  an  immense  help  it  would  be  in  bracing  my  weak  will 
to  generosity." 

It  was  during  his  annual  retreat,  September,  1911,  that 
Fr.  Doyle,  after  these  tentative  experiments,  resolved  to 
make  this  vow  daily.  This  he  did  very  calmly  and 
deliberately  and  after  much  prayer,  without  any  sensible 
fervour,  but  rather  in  spite  of  desolation  and  repugnance. 
The  following  extracts  contain  the  considerations  which  he 
jotted  down  as  well  as  the  terms  of  the  vow  itself  : 

"  Every  meditation  of  this  retreat  seems  to  turn  upon  the 
vow  Jesus  wishes  me  to  make.  Each  day  more  light  and 

I. — Compare  the  saying  of  Soeur  Gertrude-Marie  (Une  mystique  de  nos  jours  ^ 
p.  593)  quoted  later  on  in  Fr.  Doyle's  diary :  "  I  am  sure  that  God  wishes  me 
to  go  to  the  end  without  giving  any  attention  to  what  costs  me,  to  what  tires 
me,  to  what  injures  my  health.  I  must  no  longer  follow  any  rule  of  human 
prudence  in  what  concerns  my  health  ;  God  has  charge  of  it.  It  is  strange,  at 
the  moment  when  I  am  most  tired,  most  suffering,  most  exhausted,  God  asks 
me  for  yet  more.  He  asks  me  such  and  such  a  thing :  I  must  do  it  at  once, 
without  considering  if  it  injures  my  health,  without  listening  to  the  protests  of 
nature.  I  must  be  crucified  with  Jesus.  I  must  go  as  far  as  the  extinction  or 
self."  Also  the  Foundress  of  the  Society  of  Marie  Reparatrice  :  "  My  whole 
being  has  turned  into  suffering  ;  everything  fatigues  me,  everything  costs  me 
an  effort,  so  broken  down  is  my  nature.  And  nevertheless  God  does  not  wish 
either  solace  or  rest  for  me  as  long  as  the  possibility  of  suffering  remains.  "- 
Life  of  Mother  Mary  of  Jesus,  (Eng.  trans,  by  Fr.  Gallery),  1913,  p.  191. 


LIFE   OF   IMMOLATION  145 

great  graces  make  it  clear  to  me  that  this  is  to  be  the  great 
fruit  I  am  to  draw  from  these  days. 

(1)  Meditating  on  St.  Mary  Magdalen  I  felt  heart-broken, 
thinking  of  my  sinful  life  in  the  Society.     '  My  Jesus,  I  can 
only  offer  my  life  in  reparation — take  it  all.'     A  voice  seemed 
to  reply  '  I  accept  your  offering  :    spend  that  life  for  Me 
in  sacrifice  and  self-denial.' 

(2)  If  I  were  put  in  a  dungeon,  like  the  martyrs,  with 
nothing  to  lie  on  but  the  bare  stone  floor,  with  no  protection 
from  intense  cold,   bread  and  water  once  a  day  for  food, 
with  no  home  comfort  whatever,   I  could  endure  all  that 
for  years  and  gladly  for  the  love  of  Jesus,  yet  I  am  unwilling 
to   suffer   a   little   inconvenience   now,    I   must   have   every 
comfort,  warm  clothes,  fire,  food  as  agreeable  as  I  possibly 
can,  etc. 

(3)  The  devil  has  been  exaggerating  the  difficulties  of  my 
proposed  vow,  saying  human  nature  could  not  bear  it.     I 
have  thought  of  the  man  in  the  workhouse  forty  years  in 
bed,   of  blind  Brigid  suffering  for  years  constantly.     How 
much  we  can  do  when  we  must  ! 

(4)  Sanctity  is  so  precious,  it  is  worth  paying  any  price 
for  it.     I  feel  I  shall  never  be  a  saint  if  I  refuse  to  do  this. 
God  sanctifies  souls  in  many  ways,  the  path  of  daily  and 
hourly  sacrifices  in  everything  and  always  is  mine. 

(5)  Can  a  Jesuit,  who  deliberately  refuses  his  Lord  any 
act  of  self-denial,  which  he  knows  is  asked  from  him,  ever 
be  really  insignis  ?     Will  Jesus  be  content  with  only  half- 
measures  from  me  ?     I  feel  He  will  not ;    He  asks  for  all. 
My  Jesus,  with  Your  help  I  will  give  You  all. 

(6)  I   was  greatly  struck  with  the  thought  that  at  His 
birth,  our  Lord  began  a  voluntary  life  of  suffering  which 
would  never  end  till  He  died  in  agony  on  the  cross.     All 
this  for  me  \     I  have  little  zeal  for  souls  simply  because  I 
do  not  ask  for  it.     'Ask  and  you  shall  receive  :    hitherto 
you  have  not  asked.'  (S.  John  16.  24.) 

"  I  have  gone  through  a  great  deal  of  desolation,  discourage 
ment,  fear  and  dread  of  my  proposed  vow.  When  I  make 
it — I  am  quite  determined  now  to  do  so — it  will  be  the  result 


146  FATHER   WILLIAM  DOYLE,   S.J. 

of  calm  conviction  that  I  must  do  so,  that  God  wants  it 
from  me,  and  not  a  burst  of  fervour.  I  shrink  from  this 
living  death,  but  am  quite  happy  in  the  thought  that,  since 
God  has  inspired  me  to  do  so,  He  will  do  all  the  work  if  once 
I  submit  my  will.  ...  I  was  consoled  by  seeing 
Fr.  de  la  Colombi£re's  repugnance  to  making  his  heroic 
vow.1  He  spoke  of  the  sadness  which  this  constant  fight 
against  nature  sometimes  gave  him.  He  overcame  that 
temptation  by  remembering  that  it  is  sweet  and  easy  to  do 
what  we  know  will  please  one  we  really  love. 


A.  M.  D.  G.    et    B.  v.  M. 

MY  VOW. 

I  deliberately  vow,  and  bind  myself,  under  pain  of  mortal 
sin,  to  refuse  Jesus  no  sacrifice,  which  I  clearly  see  He  is 
asking  from  me.  Amen. 

CONDITIONS. 

(1)  Until  I  get  permission2  to  make  it  permanently,  this 
will  only  bind  from  day  to  day,  to  be  renewed  each  morning 
at  Mass. 

(2)  To  avoid  scrupulosity,  I  am  quite  Iree  unless  I  honestly 
believe  the  sacrifice  is  asked. 

(3)  Any  confessor  may  dispense   me  from  the   vow    at 
any  time. 

Feast  of  St.  Michael, 
Tullabeg.  September  29th,  1911. 

Though  not  coming  under  the  matter  of  the  vow,  my 
aim  will  be  : — 

(a)  Never  to  avoid  suffering  e.g.  heat  or  cold,  unpleasant 
people  etc. 

i. — See  the  quotation  on  p.  36. 

2. — This  reference  shows  clearly  that  Fr.  Doyle  consulted  his  confessor  and 
sought  permission  for  these  private  vows. 


LIFE  OF  IMMOLATION  147 

(b)  Of  two  alternatives,  to  choose  the  harder  e.g.  ordinary 
or  arm  chair. 

(c)  To  try  and  let  absolutely  no  occasion  of  self-denial 
pass  :   they  are  too  precious. 

(d)  As  far  as  possible,  not  to  omit  my  ordinary  penances 
when  a  little  unwell. 

(e)  My  constant  question  to  be :    '  What  other  sacrifice 
can  I  make  ?     What  more  can  I  give  up  for  Jesus  ?     How 
can  I  do  this  action  more  perfectly  ?  ' 


REASONS    FOR    MAKING    VOW. 

(1)  The  immense  help  it  will  be  to  become  fervent. 

(2)  Additional  great  merit  from  doing  the  acts  under  vow. 

(3)  I  see  now  what  was  the  strange  '  want '  which  I  have 
felt  so  often  in  my  life.     I  have  been  urged  by  grace  for  years 
to  take  some  such  step,  but  only  recently  clearly  saw  what 
I  should  do. 

(4)  My  sanctification  depends  on  doing  this. 

(5)  I  wish  to  do  my  utmost  to  please  my  dear  Jesus. 

(6)  I  feel  simply  I  must  make  this  vow — as  if  I  had  no 
power  to  refuse,  which  shows  me  that  all  this  is  the  work 
of  grace,  and  not  my  doing  in  the  least. 

(7)  Since  Jesus,  out  of  pure  love  for  me,  has  always  lived 
this  life,  and  since  I  have  promised  to  imitate  Him,  how 
can  I  now  refuse  to  do  so  ? 

(8)  I  shall  gain  immensely  by  this  vow,   my  work  for 
others  will  be  blessed,  more  souls  will  be  saved  and  greater 
glory  given  to  God. 

(9)  What  shall  I  lose  ?     A  little  gratification  which  brings 
no  real  pleasure  but  always  leaves  me  unhappy,  for  I  feel  I 
am  resisting  grace. 

I  make  this  vow  with  immense  distrust  of  myself  and  my 
power  to  keep  it,  but  place  all  my  confidence  and  trust  in 
Thee,  O  most  loving  Heart  of  Jesus." 


148  FATHER   WILLIAM   DOYLE,   SJ. 

At  the  end  of  his  retreat  he  wrote  down  what  he  considered 
to  have  been  its  three  great  fruits  : 
"  (l)   The  making  of  my  vow. 

(2)  Resolution  to  get  back  my  old  love   and   devotion 

to  Mary. 

(3)  Trying  to  acquire  under  her  guidance  the  '  interior 

union.' ' 

Fifteen  months  later  (January,  1913,)  there  occurs  an  entry 
in  his  diary,  which  is  a  consoling  proof  that  Fr.  Doyle's 
heroic  ideal  was  grafted  on  a  humanity  shared  by  us  all. 
"  During  this  retreat,"  he  writes,  "  my  eyes  have  been  opened 
to  this  unceasing  appeal  of  Jesus  and  to  see  how  I  have 
never  really  kept  my  resolutions.  Even  my  vow  after  a 
short  time  I  gave  up  renewing,  and  lately  I  forgot  I  ever 
made  it.  With  God's  grace  I  purpose  to  keep  it  every 
Monday,  Wednesday,  and  Friday,  and  to  mark  each  day 
in  the  other  book.  On  these  days  I  will  endeavour  to  give 
myself  no  gratification  and  not  to  avoid  any  little  incon 
venience  or  suffering."  He  was  not  discouraged,  he  started 
once  more.  And  after  another  three  months  he  renewed 
his  vow,  this  time  until  the  end  of  the  year. 


A.  M.  D.  G. 

SOLEMN    VOW. 

"  After  much  thought  and  prayer,  feeling  myself  urged 
strongly  by  grace  and  the  ceaseless  pleading  of  Jesus,  I  have 
resolved  to  lead  the  life  of  absolute  crucifixion  which  I  know 
He  wants  and  which  alone  will  please  Him. 

I  now  promise  and  bind  myself  by  vow  (under  mortal 
sin)  '  to  give  Him  everything '  until  next  Christmas  Day, 
with  the  power  of  dispensing  myself  in  case  of  necessity 
on  any  day. 

Dear  Jesus,  I  vow,  with  the  help  of  Your  grace,  to  give 
You  all  You  ask  for  the  future. 

Good  Friday,  March  2ist,  1913. 
Three  o'clock." 


LIFE  OF  IMMOLATION  149 

Fr.  Doyle  seems  to  have  come  to  the  conclusion  that  these 
two  vows  were  too  vague.  So  he  made  a  third  vow,  con 
cerning  which  there  is  the  following  entry  in  his  diary  under 
the  date  2ist  September,  1913  : 

"  This  morning,  the  Feast  of  the  Seven  Dolours,  I  rose 
and  made  the  Holy  Hour  from  one  to  two.  I  then  knelt 
before  the  Tabernacle  and  bound  myself  according  to  the 
conditions  in  the  other  book.  I  also  made  a  promise  to  use 
every  effort  never  to  dispense  myself  from  this  vow,  and  to 
strive  ever  and  always  to  give  Jesus  every  sacrifice  I  possibly 
can,  trying  not  to  make  any  account  of  my  health,  but  leaving 
its  care  to  Him.  I  see  clearly  now  what  I  must  do,  and  my 
obligation  under  pain  of  mortal  sin,  and  since  I  must  mark 
each  act  daily  I  shall  not  forget  it.  This  vow  cancels  the 
other  two  which  were  too  vague  and  not  realisable." 

In  this  vow  Fr.  Doyle  specified  in  detail  the  '  everything  ' 
which  he  had  promised  to  give  our  Lord.  The  vow  included 
certain  mortifications  in  food  (no  sugar  or  salt,  etc.)  and  bound 
him  to  mark  daily  acts  on  the  watch  and  to  make  15,000 
aspirations  during  the  mission.  At  the  same  time  he  took 
ample  precautions  to  avoid  scrupulosity  or  ambiguity.1  The 
vow  was  to  be  taken  during  Sunday  Mass  and  to  hold  for 
only  one  week  ;  he  was  "  free  to  dispense  in  part  or  in  whole 
for  any  reason  "  ;  and  it  was  "  not  binding  when  at  home 
and  if  too  singular  on  certain  occasions."  Concerning  the 
renewals  of  .this  vow  or  any  subsequent  modifications  in  its 
terms  we  have  little  information.  At  any  rate  Fr.  Doyle 
continued  daily  marking  "  the  other  book  "  with  minute 
precision,  twenty  different  headings  being  marked  each 
day.  The  mind  which  could  stand  this  perpetual  strain 
was  of  no  ordinary  type.  It  is  a  marvel  that  his  joyous 
spirit  never  felt  crushed  by  the  sheer  weight  of  spiritual 
book-keeping  involved.  On  the  contrary  it  would  seem  that 
any  relaxation  only  oppressed  and  saddened  him.  "  During 
the  past  few  days,"  he  notes  on  20th  Nov.,  1914,  "  I  did  not 
renew  my  vow,  gave  up  aspirations  and  all  penances,  and 
indulged  myself  in  every  way.  The  result  was  great  misery 

i. — S.  Teresa,  finding  her  vow  (to  do  always  what  was  most  perfect)  a 
source  of  scruples,  got  it  commuted  ;  she  renewed  it  in  a  safer  form  under 
the  guidance  of  her  confessor.  See  preface  to  Lewis's  translation  of  the 
Foundations,  1871,  p.  vi. 


150  FATHER  WILLIAM  DOYLE,   SJ. 

and  unhappiness  with  the  feeling  that  Jesus  was  very  much 
pained,  though  I  did  not  seem  to  care.  I  felt  powerless  to 
rise  out  of  this  state.  This  morning  He  came  back  to  me 
during  my  Mass  with  such  love  and  grace  that  I  could  not 
resist  Him,  and  took  up  my  former  life  again.  Great  peace 
and  happiness  since." 

Is  not  this  after  all  the  final  test  ?  It  was  by  means  of 
these  elaborately  devised  strivings  and  these  slowly  improved 
vows  that  Fr.  Doyle  found  '  great  peace  and  happiness.' 
"  Everyone  hath  his  proper  gift  from  God,"  says  S.  Paul 
(/  Cor.  7.  7),  "  one  after  this  manner  and  another  after 
that." 

It  will  be  convenient  to  collect  here  some  of  Fr.  Doyle's 
thoughts  and  resolutions  concerning  this  life  of  self-sacrifice 
and  reparation.  We  shall  thereby  be  enabled  to  realise  the 
growing  intensity  with  which  this  wonderful  ideal  dominated 
him.  More  and  more  the  absorbing  ambition  of  his  life  was 
to  make  himself  a  living  holocaust,  '  the  victim  of  the  Sacred 
Heart.'  As  time  went  on,  all  other  motives  became  fused 
in  this  glowing  zeal,  culminating  finally  and  appropriately 
in  the  sacrifice  of  life  itself.  "  Greater  love  than  this  no 
man  hath."  (S.  John  15.  13.) 

"  To-day,  the  Feast  of  all  the  Saints  of  the  Society,  while 
praying  in  the  Chapel  at  Donnybrook  (Poor  Clares),  our 
Lord  seemed  to  ask  me  these  questions  :— 

(1)  When  are  you  going  to  do  what  I  have  so  often  urged 
you  and  begged  from  you — a  life  of  absolute  sacrifice  ? 

(2)  You  have  promised  Me  to  begin  this  life  earnestly, — 
why  not  do  so  at  once  ? 

(3)  You  have   vowed  to  give   Me  any  sacrifice   I  want. 
I  ask  this  from  you  : 

(a)  the  most  absolute  surrender  of  all  gratification, 

(b)  to  embrace  every  possible  suffering, 

(c)  this,  every  day  and  always.' 

My  Jesus,  I  shrink  from  such  a  life,  but  will  bravely  begin 
this  moment  since  You  wish  it."  (5th  November,  1911.) 


LIFE  OF   IMMOLATION  151 

"  For  a  long  time  past  the  conviction  has  been  growing 
that  God  wants  me  to  be  His  victim  to  be  immolated  on 
the  altar  of  perfect  sacrifice.  Every  act  of  self-indulgence, 
even  when  there  was  some  excuse  if  I  was  not  very  well, 
has  left  me  unhappy,  for  I  see  clearly  He  wants  all.  The 
thought  of  a  life  in  which  there  would  be  absolutely  no 
yielding  to  self,  stripped  of  every  possible  comfort,  has  an 
immense  attraction  for  me  lately,  even  though  I  have  not 
the  courage  or  generosity  to  embrace  it.  This  morning  at 
Kilmacud  Jesus  again  told  me  what  He  wants  :  '  to  refuse 
Him  no  sacrifice,  to  bear  every  little  pain  and  inconvenience 
without  relief,  to  give  myself  absolutely  no  gratification  at 
meals  even  when  not  well  or  on  feasts,  and  to  regard  food 
only  as  a  means  of  living,  to  increase  my  corporal  penances/ 
So  strong  clear  and  persistent  is  this  light,  filling  my  soul 
with  peace,  that  I  feel  absolutely  convinced  it  is  the  will 
of  God.  I  have  begun,  therefore,  to  mark  days  of  '  absolute 
sacrifice  '  for  Jesus."  (ist  January,  1912.) 

"  Last  night  I  rose  at  two  o'clock,  very  much  against 
my  will,  and  went  down  to  the  domestic  chapel  (Limerick). 
Jesus  seemed  to  want  me  to  come  before  Him  as  a  victim 
of  His  divine  anger  on  behalf  of  sinners.  I  knelt  down  in 
fear  and  dread.  Acting  on  a  strong  impulse  I  uncovered 
my  shoulders,  bowed  my  head  and  asked  Jesus  to  scourge 
me  without  mercy  and  not  to  spare  me,  cowardly  as  I  was. 
Then  He  spoke  in  my  soul  clearly  and  forcibly  :  '  You  must 
be  your  own  executioner.  I  want  you  to  sacrifice  all,  which 
you  have  never  done  yet  though  you  often  promised.  From 
this  hour  you  must  never  give  yourself  one  grain  of  human 
comfort  or  self-indulgence  even  at  the  times  you  have  been 
accustomed  to  do  so,  e.g.  when  very  tired,  not  well,  travelling, 
etc.  I  want  from  you  a  suffering  love  always,  always, 
always.  The  feasts  and  relaxations  of  others  are  not  for 
you.  Give  Me  this  courageously  and  I  will  grant  the  desires 
of  your  heart.' 

"  Jesus  seemed  to  ask  the  following  :  (i)  perfect  denial  of 
the  eyes,  (2)  the  bearing  of  little  pains,  (3)  much  prayer  for 
strength,  (4)  a  review  of  each  half  day  at  examen  to  see  if 
this  resolution  has  been  kept. 

"  My  whole  soul  shrank  from  this  life — '  no  human  comfort 


152  FATHER   WILLIAM   DOYLE,   S.J. 

ever.'  But  with  His  grace,  for  I  know  my  own  weakness 
too  well,  I  promised  to  do  all  He  asked,  and  lying  on  the 
ground,  I  asked  Him  to  nail  me  to  my  cross  and  never  again 
permit  me  to  come  down  from  it.  Fiat."  (loth  July,  1913.) 

"  Last  night  I  rose  at  one  a.m.  and  went  down  to  the 
Church,  renewing  before  the  Crucifix  my  desire  and  promise 
absolutely  '  to  surrender  all  human  comfort  and  embrace 
instead  every  possible  pain  and  discomfort.'  With  my  arms 
round  the  cross,  I  begged  Jesus  to  give  me  His  courage  and 
strength  to  do  what  He  asks  from  me.  I  realised  that  if 
I  prayed  when  tempted  to  give  in,  grace  would  come  to  my 
help."  (27th  January,  1914.) 

'  My  way  is  sure.'  I  think  I  can  say  now  without  a 
shade  of  doubt  or  hesitation  that  the  path  by  which  Jesus 
wants  me  to  walk  is  that  of  absolute  abandonment  of  all  human 
comfort  and  pleasure  and  the  embracing  as  far  as  I  can  of 
every  discomfort  and  pain.  Every  time  I  see  a  picture  of 
the  crucifixion  or  a  cross,  I  feel  strangely  affected  and  drawn 
to  the  life  of  immolation  in  a  strange  way.  The  heroism 
of  Jesus  appeals  to  me  ;  His  '  naked  crucifixion  '  calls  to 
me  and  it  gives  me  great  consolation  and  peace  to  offer 
myself  to  Him  on  the  cross  for  this  perpetual  living 
crucifixion.  How  often  does  He  not  seem  to  say  to  me 
in  prayer,  '  I  would  have  you  strip  yourself  of  all  things — 
every  tiny  particle  of  self-indulgence,  and  this  ever  and 
always  ?  Give  Me  all  and  I  will  make  you  a  great  saint.' 
This  then  is  the  price  of  my  life-long  yearning  for 
sanctification.  O  Jesus,  I  am  so  weak,  help  me  to  give 
You  all  and  to  do  it  now."  (8th  May,  1914.) 

"  During  meditation  Jesus  made  known  to  me  a  new 
life  which  He  wants  me  to  aim  at  in  future,  a  life  in  which 
I  am  to  seek  only  suffering,  weariness  and  pain. 

(1)  He  will  send  me  many  little  bodily  pains  which  I  am 
to  bear  with  joy,  not  to  seek  to  get  rid  of  them  or  to  make 
them  known  to  others. 

(2)  I  am  to  inflict  as  much  pain  on  myself  as  I  can,  hence 
I  must  increase  corporal  penance. 

(3)  I    am    to    try    and    continue    this    especially    when 
I  am  sick. 

(4)  When  fatigued  and  weary,  not  to  indulge  myself  or 


LIFE   OF   IMMOLATION  153 

rest   as   I   always   do ;    this   will   be   very   hard,   but   Jesus 
wants  it. 

(5)  Since  constant  work  is  so  painful,  I  must   try  never 
to  be  idle  one  moment. 

(6)  In  a  word,  because  every  moment  of  the  life  of  Jesus 
was  '  full  of  pain  and  suffering/  I  must  strive  ever  and  always 
to  make  my  life  resemble  His."    (Retreat,  September,  1915.) 

"  Meditating  on  the  words  of  our  Lord  to  Blessed 
Margaret  Mary  :  '  I  seek  for  My  Heart  a  victim  willing  to 
sacrifice  itself  for  the  accomplishment  of  My  desires,'  I  begged 
Jesus  to  tell  me  the  meaning  of  these  words.  This  seemed 
to  be  His  answer,  written  as  I  knelt  before  the  Tabernacle  : 

(1)  '  The  victim  whom  I  seek  for  must  place  himself  in 
My  hands  that  I  may  do  absolutely  what  I  will  with  him. 
Only  in  this  way  can  My  secret  plans  and  designs  be  carried 
out.     If  the  victim  deliberately  refuses  to  do  what  I  want, 
all  My  plans  may  be  spoiled. 

(2)  '  The  victim  must  surrender  his  body  for  any  suffering 
or  disease  I  may  please  to  send,  (but  not  asked  for).     There 
must  be  no  holding  back  in  this  surrender  through  fear  of 
any  sickness  whatever.     This  includes  the  joyful  acceptance 
of  all  little  bodily  pains  and  the  not  seeking  remedies  for 
them,  except  when  absolutely  necessary. 

(3)  '  The  victim  must  give  Me  his  soul  that  I  may  try  it 
by  temptation,  plunge  it  in  sadness,  purify  it  by  interior 
trials.      In  this  state  its  prayer  must  be,   '  Fiat,  Thy  will 
be  done/ 

(4)  '  Perfect  abandonment  to  My  will  in  every  detail  must 
be  the  very  life  of  My  victim,  the  most  absolute  humble 
submission  to  My  pleasure  his  constant  aim.     Every  little 
thing  that  happens  must  be  recognized  and  welcomed  as 
coming  straight  from  My  hand.     The  victim  will  wait  till 
the  voice  of  obedience  speaks  and  then  do  exactly  what  I 
have  made  known,  this  promptly,   earnestly,   gladly  because 
it  is  My  will.     There  must  be  no  likes  or  dislikes  ;   no  wishing 
for  this  thing  to  end  or  the  other  to  begin,  to  be  sent  here 
or  there,  not  to  have  this  work  to  do,  etc.     My  victim  must 
have   only   one   wish,  one   aim,  one   desire, — to  do  what   I 
want  in  all  things  ;    this  I  shall  make  known  from  moment 
to  moment. 


154  FATHER  WILLIAM  DOYLE,   S.J. 

(5)  '  The  victim  should  strive  to  carry  out  what  I  seem 
to  ask,  fearless  of  the  pain  involved,  regardless  of  the  possible 
consequences,  only  trusting  in  My  all-powerful  help  and 
protection. 

In  this  way,  using  My  victim  as  an  instrument,  I  shall 
secretly  accomplish  my  desires  in  souls.  My  child,  do  you 
accept  this  office  with  its  conditions  ?  ' 

Jesus,  most  humbly  I  offer  myself  as  Thy  victim.  Amen." 
September,  1915.) 


This  last  was  written  just  six  weeks  before  he  received 
his  appointment  as  military  chaplain  and  two  years  before 
God  accepted  the  final  holocaust. 


(3.)   PRIESTLY  SANCTITY  AND  REPARATION. 

Fr.  Doyle  had  a  very  high  ideal  of  the  sacerdotal  vocation. 
This  he  showed  not  only  by  his  efforts  to  procure  labourers 
for  the  great  harvest,  but  especially  in  his  own  life.  His 
daily  Mass,  for  instance,  was  celebrated  with  a  fervour  which 
was  apparent  even  to  strangers.  Phrases,  such  as  Kyrie 
Eleison,  Sursum  Corda,  Dominus  Vobiscum,  which  by  their 
very  iteration  tend  to  become  mechanical  utterances,  seemed 
on  his  lips  to  be  always  full  of  freshness  and  meaning.1 
Similarly  he  always  strove  to  prevent  the  recitation  of  the 
Office  from  becoming  mere  routine  ;  he  regarded  it  as  a 
minting  of  merit,  every  word  a  precious  coin.  He  so  valued 
the  Sacrament  of  Penance  that  he  resolved  to  go  daily  to 
Confession.  This  lofty  priestly  ideal  is  made  abundantly 
evident  by  his  growing  preoccupation  with  the  work  of 
promoting  priestly  sanctity  and  his  increasing  realisation 
that,  like  the  great  High  Priest,  he  should  be  "  a  propitiation 
for  the  sins  of  the  people."  (Hebr.  2.  17.)  We  see  this 

I. — It  was  a  similar  zeal  which  led  him  to  publish  his  little  Synopsis  of  the 
Rubrics  and  Ceremonies  of  Holy  Mass,  Washbourne,  1914.  One  of  the  booklets 
he  had  projected  was  "An  Explanation  of  the  Priesl's  Actions  at  Mass." 
"  How  many  of  us,"  he  asks,  "could  tell  why,  for  example,  the  priest  blesses 
the  water  and  not  the  wine  at  the  Offertory  ?  "  Cf.  the  Cur£  of  Ars  :  "  To  say 

Mass  one  ought  to  be  a  seraph If  we  really  knew  what  the  Mass  is, 

we  should  die  !" — Life  by  Abbe  Monnin,  Eng.  tr.  pp.  146  f. 


PRIESTLY  SANCTITY  AND  REPARATION     155 

idea  in  the  following  note  :  "  Sacerdos  et  victima.1  After 
the  words,  Accipe  protestatem  off  ere  sacrificium  Dei,  the 
ordaining  bishop  adds,  Imitamini  quod  tractatis?  Jesus  is 
a  Victim,  the  priest  must  be  one  also.  Christ  has  charged 
His  priest  to  renew  daily  the  sacrifice  of  the  Cross  ;  the 
altar  is  a  perpetual  Calvary ;  the  matter  of  the  sacrifice, 
the  victim,  is  Himself,  His  own  Body,  and  He  is  the  sacrificer. 
'  Receive,  O  Eternal  Father,  this  unspotted  Victim.'  Can  a 
priest  worthy  of  the  name  stand  by  and  watch  this 
tremendous  act,  this  heroic  sacrifice,  without  desiring  to 
suffer  and  to  be  immolated  also  ?  '  With  Christ  I  am  nailed 
to  the  Cross.'  (Gal.  2.  20.)  .  .  .  Would  that  I  could 
say  '  a  pure  holy  spotless  victim.'  Let  Jesus  take  me  in 
His  hands,  as  I  take  Him  in  mine,  to  do  as  He  wills  with 
.  me."  This  idea  is  quite  scriptural.  "  I  beseech  you," 
writes  S.  Paul,3  "  that  you  present  your  bodies  a  living 
sacrifice,  holy,  pleasing  unto  God."  "  Be  you  also,"  says 
S.  Peter  (i.  2,  5),  "as  living  stones  built  up,  a  spiritual  house, 
a  holy  priesthood,  to  offer  up  spiritual  sacrifices  acceptable 
to  God  by  Jesus  Christ."  This  association  of  priesthood 
and  sacrifice  applies  also  to  those  who  are  not  priests,  to  all 
the  faithful,  who  constitute  "  a  chosen  generation,  a  kingly 
priesthood,  a  holy  nation,  a  purchased  people."  (/  Peter 
2.  9.)  "  Pray,  Brothers,"  says  the  priest  at  Mass,  "  that 
the  sacrifice  which  is  mine  and  yours  may  be  acceptable  to 
God  the  Father  Almighty."  And  all  through  the  Canon  of 
the  Mass  the  words  emphasise  the  intimate  union  between 
celebrant  and  people  in  the  great  mystery  which  is  being 
enacted.  The  assistants  join  not  only  in  offering  up  the 
Divine  Victim  but  also,  as  a  water-drop  in  wine,  in  offering 
themselves  as  '  a  living  sacrifice/4 

I. — Priest  and  Victim. 

2. — -Receive  power  to  offer  the  sacrifice  of  God.  Imitate  what  you  handle 
(i.e.  the  instruments  of  sacrifice). 

3. — Rom.  12.  i.     Cf.  Prat,  Thdologie  de  saint  Paul,  i.  308  ff. 

4. — As  the  ideas  of  Soeur  Gertrude  Marie  were  so  appreciated  and  propagated 
by  Fr.  Doyle,  we  may  refer  here  to  her  method  of  hearing1  Mass. — Sister 
Gertrude  Mary  (Eng.  trans.  1915  of  abridged  French  edition)  pp.  107-111. 
"  I  ask  of  Jesus  to  place  my  soul,  and  all  those  whom  I  am  recommending  »o 
Him  at  the  Holy  Sacrifice,  upon  the  paten,  and  in  the  chalice,  so  that  this  dear 
Saviour  may  deign  to  offer  us  all  to  His  Father.  The  matter  of  the  Sacrifice  is 
prepared.  I  must  offer  myself  also  to  be  wholly  immolated  .  .  .  ."  Compare 
what  S.  Francis  de  Sales  says  to  a  correspondent  :  "  Every  day  I  offer  you  on 
the  altar  with  the  Son  of  God." — Letters  to  Persons  in  Religion,  Eng.  trans. 
(Mackay)  19018  p.  26.  Also  Imitation  of  Christ  (iv.  8,  i)  :  "  You  also  ought  to 
offer  yourself  freely  to  Me  every  day  in  the  Mass  as  a  pure  and  holy  offering." 


156  FATHER   WILLIAM   DOYLE,   SJ. 

Thus  the  Sacrifice  of  the  Mass  is  the  living  source  from 
which  our  reparation  derives  its  efficacy  and  inspiration. 
Co-operation  in  the  great  mystery  of  the  Redemption,  says 
the  foundress  of  the  Congregation  de  1'  Adoration  Reparatrice, 
is  "  the  act  of  the  Sacrifice  of  the  Mass  continued  by  the 
members  of  the  Saviour  at  every  moment  of  the  day  and 
night."1  And  this  ideal  of  co-sacrifice  with  Christ  leads 
naturally  from  an  appreciation  of  the  sublime  function  of 
the  priesthood  to  the  idea  of  a  spiritual  crusade,  extending 
and  supplementing  the  sacerdotal  work  and  atoning  for  the 
inevitable  negligences  and  even  scandals  which  occur  in  its 
performance.  This  is  the  devotion  which,  during  the  last 
three  years  of  his  life,  strongly  took  hold  of  Fr.  Doyle,  namely, 
prayer  for  priests  to  aid  them  in  their  ministry  and  reparation 
in  atonement  for  the  negligences  and  infidelities  of  those 
whose  calling  is  so  high.  We  have  already  seen  how  earnestly 
he  besought  prayers  for  his  own  work.2  S.  Teresa  exhorts 
her  nuns  to  this  apostolate  of  prayer.  '  Try  to  be  such," 
she  says,3  "  that  we  may  be  worthy  to  obtain  these  two 
favours  from  God  :  (i)  that  among  the  numerous  learned 
and  religious  (priests)  whom  we  have,  there  may  be  many 
who  possess  the  requisite  abilities  .  .  .  and  that  our  Lord 
would  improve  those  that  are  not  so  well  prepared,  since 
one  perfect  man  can  do  more  than  many  imperfect  ones  ; 
(2)  that  our  Lord  may  protect  them  in  their  great  warfare, 
so  that  they  may  escape  the  many  dangers  of  the  world." 
She  considered  that  her  Carmelites,  enjoying  the  seclusion 
and  immunity  of  the  cloister,  owed  this  duty  to  the  Church 
Militant.  This  ideal  is  still  more  conspicuously  enshrined  in 
some  recent  religious  institutes,  particularly  in  the  Society 
of  the  Daughters  of  the  Heart  of  Jesus.  These  sisters  are 
"  to  ask  by  fervent  prayers,  by  sufferings  and  even  by  their 
lives,  if  necessary,  for  the  outpouring  of  grace  on  the  Church, 
on  the  Catholic  priesthood  and  on  religious  orders."  In 
his  Brief  to  Mgr.  van  den  Berghe,  I4th  March,  1872,  Pius  IX 

i. — Mgr.  d'Hulst,  Vie  de  la  V<fn.  Marie-Tercse,  1917  <*,  p.  268;  Eng.  trans,  by 
Lady  Herbert  (Life  of  Mother  Mary  Teresa,  1899),  p.  168. 

2. — See  p.  65. 

3. —  Way  of  Perfection,  ch.  3. 

4.— Abbe  L.  Laplace,  La  Mere  Marie  de  Jt/sus  (Marie  Deluil-Martiny),  1894  ; 
new  ed.  1906,  p.  283. 


PRIESTLY  SANCTITY  AND  REPARATION     157 

welcomed  the  new  foundation.  "  It  is  not  without  con 
solation  of  heart,"  said  the  Pope,1  "  that  we  have  heard 
of  your  plan  to  arouse  and  spread  in  your  country  that 
admirable  spirit  of  sacrifice  which  God  apparently  wishes 
to  oppose  to  the  ever  increasing  impiety  of  our  time.  We 
see  with  pleasure  that  a  great  number  of  persons  are  every 
where  devoting  themselves  entirely  to  God,  offering  Him 
even  their  life  in  ardent  prayer,  to  obtain  the  deliverance 
and  happy  preservation  of  His  Vicar  and  the  triumph  of 
the  Church,  to  make  reparation  for  the  outrages  committed 
against  the  divine  Majesty,  and  especially  to  atone  for  the 
profanations  of  those  who,  though  the  salt  of  the  earth,  lead 
a  life  which  is  not  in  conformity  with  their  dignity." 

The  seal  of  the  Church  has  therefore  been  set  on  this 
apostolate  of  prayer  and  reparation.  There  is,  needless  to 
say,  no  question  of  pride  or  presumption,  no  attempting  to 
judge  others.2  It  is  merely  the  just  principle  that  those 
who  are  specially  shielded  and  privileged  should  aid  those 
active  religious — priests,  brothers  and  sisters — who  have 
great  responsibilities  and  a  difficult  mission,  and  should  by 
their  faithfulness  atone  for  the  shortcomings  of  those  who 
are  exposed  to  greater  temptations.  "  More  than  ever,"  says 
Cardinal  Mermillod,3  "  is  it  necessary  to  console  the  wounded 
Heart  of  Jesus,  to  pray  for  the  priesthood,  and  by  immolation 
and  adoration,  without  measure  or  truce  to  give  our  Saviour 
testimony  of  affection  and  fidelity."  '  There  is  much  which 
needs  reparation,"  writes  Mgr.  d'  Hulst,4  "  even  in  the 
sanctuary  and  the  cloisters,  and  indeed  especially  there. 
Our  Lord  expects  compensation  from  souls  who  have 
not  abused  special  graces."  "  How  grievous  are  these 
scandals  !  "  he  exclaims  in  another  letter.  "  Only  the 

I. — Ibid.,  pp.  2l8f. 

2. — "You  should  love  them  [priests]  therefore  by  reason  of  the  virtue  and 
dignity  of  the  Sacrament,  and  by  reason  of  that  very  virtue  and  dignity  you 
should  hate  the  defects  of  those  who  live  miserably  in  sin,  but  not  on  that 
account  appoint  yourselves  their  judges,  which  I  forbid,  because  they  are  My 
Christs  and  you  ought  to  love  and  reverence  the  authority  which  I  have  given 

them Their  sins  indeed  should  displease  you  and  you  should  hate  them, 

and  strive  with  love  and  holy  prayer  to  reclothe  them,  washing  away  their 
foulness  with  your  tears." — S.  Catherine  of  Siena,  Dialogue,  Eng.  trans. 
Thorold,  1907  -  ,  pp.  256  f. 

3. — Laplace,  La  Mere  Marie  de  Jdsus,  1906,   p.  288. 

4. — Baudrillart,  Vie  de  Mgr.  d' Hulst,  ii.  523;  The  Way  of  the  Heart:  Letters 
of  Direction  by  Mgr.  d' Hulst,  Eng.  trans.  1913,  p.  96,  (see  also  p.  25). 


158  FATHER  WILLIAM  DOYLE,   SJ. 

thought  of  reparation  can  soften  the  bitterness  of  them.  To 
take  expiation  on  oneself  is  to  be  like  Him  of  whom  it  is 
said  :  Vere  languores  nostros  ipse  tulit  et  dolores  nostros  ipse 
portavit.1  If  this  thought  had  thoroughly  entered  into  us, 
without  running  after  great  penances,  should  we  not  give 
quite  another  reception  than  we  usually  do  to  sufferings, 
vexations,  and  the  dulness  and  bitterness  of  our  poor  lives  ? 
And  then  the  thought  of  reparation  is  so  beneficial  to  poor 
souls  like  ours  !  It  is  a  great  mistake  to  think  it  is  the 
privilege  of  the  perfect.  On  the  contrary,  it  pleases  our 
Lord  to  open  up  these  horizons  to  the  weak,  to  give  them 
courage  by  turning  their  attention  away  from  their  own 
wretchedness.  If  I  am  incapable  of  satisfying  God  in  myself, 
I  will  try  to  make  up  to  Him  for  others.  If  I  cannot  lament 
my  own  ingratitude  sufficiently,  I  will  learn  to  do  so  by 
lamenting  for  others."  These  consoling  words  will  help  to 
convince  those  whose  ideal  of  holiness  is  unconsciously 
individualistic  and  self-centred,  that  the  ideal  of  reparation 
by  no  means  implies  the  possession  or  the  delusion  of 
perfection.  Of  course  in  all  this  there  may  creep  in  some 
spirit  of  censorious  self-sufficiency,  though  indeed  there  is 
not  much  danger  of  it  in  the  hidden  humble  lives  of  those 
'  victim-souls '  who  are  devoted  to  the  secret  apostolate  of 
prayer  for  God's  ministers  and  reparation  for  those  scandals 
and  infidelities  which  occur  from  time  to  time  in  the  Church. 
It  has,  therefore,  seemed  right  to  show  briefly  here,  by  way 
of  preface  to  Fr.  Doyle's  private  notes,  how  explicitly  this 
work  of  priestly  sanctification  and  reparation  has  been 
recognised  by  the  Church  and  adopted  by  saints  and 
mystics.2 

i. — "Surely    He   hath    borne   our   infirmities   and    carried    our   sorrows."— 
Jsaias  53.  4. 

2. — Compare  the  message  to  Gemma  Galgani  :  "I  have  need  of  a  great 
expiation  specially  for  the  sins  and  sacrileges  by  which  ministers  of  the 
sanctuary  are  offending  Me."— Life  by  Fr.  Germanus,  Eng.  trans.  1913,  p.  325. 
Also  Soeur  Gertrude  Marie  :  "  I  wish  to  pray  and  suffer  for  priests.  I  wish 
that  all  holy  souls,  especially  religious,  had  this  attraction  for  the  sanctification 
of  priests.  My  God,  choose  souls  who  love  and  understand  the  importance  of 
this  apostolate  !  Bless  and  make  fruitful  this  apostolate  so  dear  to  Your 
Heart !  " — Legueu,  Une  mystique  de  nos  jours,  Angers,  1910,  p.  331.  And  Mere 
Marie  de  Je'sus  :  "I  think  that  I  would  willingly  give  my  life  that  our  Lord 
might  find  in  His  priests  what  He  expects  from  them  ;  I  would  give  it  that 
only  one  of  them  might  fully  realise  the  divine  plan.  Of  course  there  are  those 
who  do,  but  I  mean,  that  one  more  should  do  so  my  life  would  willingly  be 
given." — Laplace,  p.  223. 


PRIESTLY  SANCTITY  AND  REPARATION     159 

This  ideal  appealed  greatly  to  Fr.  Doyle.  On  28th  July, 
1914,  the  anniversary  of  his  Ordination,  he  wrote  :  "At 
Exposition  Jesus  spoke  clearly  in  my  soul,  '  Do  the  hard 
thing  for  My  sake  because  it  is  hard.'  I  also  felt  urged  to 
perform  all  my  priestly  duties  with  great  fervour  to  obtain 
grace  for  other  priests  to  do  the  same,  e.g.  the  Office,  that 
priests  may  say  theirs  well."  On  the  Feast  of  St.  Teresa, 
October,  1914,  there  is  this  simple  but  eloquent  record  : 
"  Last  night  I  rose  at  one  a  m.  and  walked  two  miles  bare 
footed  in  reparation  for  the  sins  of  priests  to  the  chapel  at 
Murrough  (Co.  Clare),1  where  I  made  the  Holy  Hour.  God 
made  me  realise  the  merit  of  each  step,  and  I  understood 
better  how  much  I  gain  by  not  reading  the  paper ;  each 
picture,  each  sentence  sacrificed  means  additional  merit. 
I  felt  a  greater  longing  for  self-inflicted  suffering  and  a  deter 
mination  to  do  more  '  little  things.'  '  During  his  1914 
retreat  this  ideal  came  home  to  him  as  a  special  mission. 
'  The  great  light  of  this  retreat,  clear  and  persistent,"  he 
writes  on  ist  December,  "  has  been  that  God  has  chosen 
me,  in  His  great  love  and  through  compassion  for  my 
weakness  and  misery,  to  be  a  victim  of  reparation  for  the 
sins  of  priests  especially  ;  that  hence  my  life  must  be  different 
in  the  matter  of  penance,  self-denial  and  prayer,  from  the 
lives  of  others  not  given  this  special  grace — they  may 
meritoriously  do  what  I  cannot ;  that  unless  I  constantly 
live  up  to  the  life  of  a  willing  victim,  I  shall  not  please  our 
Lord  nor  ever  become  a  saint — it  is  the  price  of  my 
sanctification  ;  that  Jesus  asks  this  from  me  always  and  in 
every  lawful  thing,  so  that  I  can  sum  up  my  life  '  sacrifice 
always  in  all  things.' ' 

On  the  following  Christmas  Day  (1914)  Fr.  Doyle  records 
a  further  step.  "  During  midnight  Mass  at  Dalkey  Convent 
I  made  the  oblation  of  myself  as  a  member  of  the  League 
of  Priestly  Sanctity.  During  my  preparation  beforehand  a 
sudden  strong  conviction  took  possession  of  me  that  by 

doing  so,  I  was  about  to  begin  the  '  work  '  which had 

spoken  of.  Our  Lord  gave  me  great  graces  during  the  Mass 
and  urged  me  more  strongly  than  ever  to  throw  myself  into 
the  work  of  my  sanctification,  that  so  I  may  draw  many 

j. — He  was  giving  a  Mission  here. 


160  FATHER   WILLIAM   DOYLE,   SJ. 

other  priests  to  Him.  He  wants  the  greatest  possible  fervour 
and  exactness  in  all  priestly  duties." 

The  League  of  Priestly  Sanctity,  to  which  reference  is 
here  made,  was  founded  in  the  North  of  France  in  the  year 
1901,  under  the  direction  of  Pere  Feyerstein,  S.J.  (f  1911). 
Fr.  Doyle  became  Director-General  for  Ireland  and  strove 
to  spread  the  League  among  Irish  priests.  In  an  explanatory 
leaflet  which  he  issued,  it  is  described  as  "  an  association  of 
priests,  both  secular  and  regular,  who,  in  response  to  the 
desire  of  the  Sacred  Heart,  strive  to  help  each  other  to  become 
holy  and  thus  render  themselves  worthy  of  their  sublime 
calling  and  raise  the  standard  of  sacerdotal  sanctity."  Two 
special  objects  are  enumerated  :  "  (i)  The  assistance  of 
priests,  and  especially  those  of  the  League,  in  living  a  life 
worthy  of  their  high  calling.  (2)  The  atonement  for  outrages 
to  the  Sacred  Heart  in  the  Sacrament  of  His  love.  This 
Sacrament,  needless  to  say,  is  committed  to  priests  in  a 
special  manner  ;  and  there  ought  to  be  a  priestly  expiation 
for  irreverence,  negligence,  and  particularly  sacrilegious 
Masses,  which  the  Divine  Heart  has  to  endure  from  the 
very  ministers  of  His  altar."1 

Fr.  Doyle  had  this  League  very  much  at  heart  and  had 
prepared  several  schemes  for  its  spread  and  improvement 
when  his  appointment  as  military  chaplain  interrupted  the 
work.  But  while  engaged  in  this  novel  sphere  of  activity, 
the  ideal  of  a  life  of  reparation  remained  uppermost  in  his 
mind  and  once  more  the  special  form  which  it  took  was 
expiation  for  the  negligences  and  sins  of  God's  anointed.  He 
recorded  this  resolution  on  26th  July,  1916  :  ''During  a  visit 
our  Lord  seemed  to  urge  me  not  to  wait  till  the  end  of  the 
war,  but  to  begin  my  life  of  reparation  at  once,  in  some 
things  at  least.  I  have  begun  to  keep  a  book  of  acts  done 
with  this  intention.  He  asked  me  for  these  sacrifices,  (i) 
To  rise  at  night  in  reparation  for  priests  who  lie  in  bed 
instead  of  saying  Mass.  (2)  At  all  costs  to  make  the  50,000 
aspirations.  (3)  To  give  up  illustrated  papers.  (4)  To  kiss 
floor  of  churches  (5)  Breviary  always  kneeling.  (6)  Mass 

i. — Pius  X.  (Rescript  of  l6th  Dec.  1908,  and  Brief  of  gth  July,  1909)  granted 
a  plenary  indulgence  once  a  month  to  priests  who  undertook  this  oblation  of 
priestly  reparation. 


PRIESTLY  SANCTITY   AND    REPARATION      161 

with  intense  devotion.  The  Blessed  Cure  d'  Ars  used  to 
kneel  without  support  while  saying  the  Office.  Could 
not  I  ?  " 

"  This  is  my  vocation,"  he  notes  on  8th  February,  1917, 
"  reparation  and  penance  for  the  sins  of  priests  ;  hence  the 
constant  urging  of  our  Lord  to  generosity."  Appropriately 
enough  the  last  entry  in  his  diary  was  made  on  28th  July, 
1917,  the  tenth  anniversary  of  his  ordination.  Fr.  Doyle's 
last  recorded  thought  was  about  his  sacrificial  ideal  of  priestly 
immolation. 

"  The  reading  of  La  vie  rfyaratrice1  has  made  me  long 
more  to  take  up  this  life  in  earnest.  I  have  again  offered 
myself  to  Jesus  as  His  Victim  to  do  with  me  absolutely  as 
He  pleases.  I  will  try  to  take  all  that  happens,  no  matter 
from  whom  it  comes,  as  sent  to  me  by  Jesus  and  will  bear 
suffering,  heat,  cold,  etc.,  with  joy  as  part  of  my  immolation, 
in  reparation  for  the  sins  of  priests.  From  this  day  I  shall 
try  bravely  to  bear  all  '  little  pains  '  in  this  spirit.  A  strong 
urging  to  this." 


(4.)  HOLY  FOLLIES. 

Neither  human  nor  divine  love  expresses  itself  with 
mechanical  precision  and  calculated  nicety.  The  outpouring 
of  the  heart  cannot  be  regulated  as  it  were  with  a  tap  ;  the 
very  fervour  of  devotion  scorns  all  attempts  at  impersonal 
measurement.  Every  absorbing  emotion  seems  tinged  with 
foolishness  or  foolhardiness  to  one  who  is  outside  it  and 
untouched  by  it.  "  He  saved  others,"  said  the  wise  men 
on  Calvary,  "  but  Himself  He  cannot  save."  (S.  Matthew 
27.  42.)  And  did  not  Peter  himself  take  his  Master  aside 
and  rebuke  Him  ?  (5.  Matthew  16.  22.)  Only  when  the 
suffering  Christ  turned  and  looked  at  him,  did  Peter,  weeping 
bitterly,  understand  the  foolishness  of  the  cross.  (5.  Luke 
22.  61.)  We,  too,  with  our  averaged  precepts  of  prudence, 
shall  often  feel  tempted  to  take  God's  saints  aside  and  rebuke 
them.  That  is  because  we  cannot  catch  that  look  divine 

i. — By  Canon  Leroux  de  Bretagne  (Descl^e,   1909). 
L 


162      .        FATHER  WILLIAM   DOYLE,   SJ. 

which  flashed  on  them  ;  we  attend  more  to  the  exterior 
expressions  of  holiness  than  to  its  interior  intensity.  The 
significance  of  the  lives  of  the  saints  does  not  lie  in  the  fact 
that  they  did  foolish  or  even  whimsical  things,  which  they 
themselves  (like  Ignatius  after  Manresa)  often  regretted  ;  it 
lies  rather  in  the  inner  love  and  heroism  of  which  these  are 
the  manifestations.  Such  acts  performed  under  over 
whelming  inspiration  serve,  like  the  stigmata  and  trances  of 
some  ecstatica,  to  show  forth,  by  their  striking  singularity, 
how  high  our  nature  can  be  raised  and  how  deeply  the  human 
heart  can  be  stirred  by  the  reality  of  God's  presence.  It 
would  be  hard  to  justify  by  general  principles  many  incidents 
in  the  lives  of  the  saints ;  we  are  not  called  upon  to  do  so. 
Such  things  cannot  be  generalised  and  sometimes  they  are 
certainly  unwise  and  exaggerated.1  In  altitudes  whither 
most  of  us  never  penetrate,  even  the  saints  are  but  novices 
and  pioneers  ;  what  wonder  if  at  times  their  steps  are  clumsy 
and  unsure  ?  Just  as  ordinary  men  need  a  confessor  who 
will  spur  and  stimulate  them,  so  the  saints  need  a  director 
to  check  and  restrain  their  impetuous  ardour. 

These  few  remarks  will  help  to  place  in  their  proper 
setting  some  incidents  in  the  life  of  Fr.  Doyle,  most  of 
which,  were  it  not  for  a  chance-written  document  penned 
under  what  he  believed  to  be  God's  inspiration,  we  should 
hardly  suspect.  It  was  with  a  firm  faith  in  God's  special 
providence  and  mission  that  he  strove  to  ignore  physical 
exhaustion  and  illness.2  During  his  1915  retreat  he  wrote  : 
"  I  think  our  Lord  is  allowing  my  present  state  of  lassitude 
and  suffering  and  at  the  same  time  urging  me  to  heroic 
generosity,  in  order  to  make  me  rely  more  on  His  strength. 
Humanly  speaking,  I  ought  to  rest  and  indulge  myself,  I 
feel  so  run  down ;  but  Jesus  does  not  want  this.  I  must 
cast  prudence  to  the  winds,  go  ahead  blindly,  following  the 
inspirations  of  grace  and  not  counting  the  cost.  I  am 
convinced  that  my  health  will  not  suffer,  as  past  experience 

I. — "  I  make  so  bold  as  to  say  that  a  certain  amount  of  Christian  language 
in  that  matter  of  mortification  is  both  metaphorical  and  hyperbolical.  I  go 
even  further  and  say  that,  besides  exaggerated  language,  there  has  been 
occasionally,  or  even  frequently,  exaggerated  acting  in  individual  cases.  The 
Church  is  not  responsible  for  the  over-fervid  behaviour  of  some  of  her  best 
children." — Abbot  A.  Vonier,  The  Human  Soul,  1913,  p.  126. 

2. — See  also  p.  143. 


HOLY   FOLLIES  163 

has  shown  me  that  I  am  always  better  when  giving  Him 
all.  Besides  would  it  not  be  far  better  to  die  than  to  go  on 
fighting  against  Him  as  I  have  done  for  years  ?  "  In  this 
intimate  colloquy  written  to  reassure  himself,  we  have  his 
own  best  defence.  He  alone  felt  '  the  inspirations  of  grace  ' 
and  had  the  evidence  of  what  '  Jesus  wanted  ' ;  he  who 
saved  others,  refused  to  save  himself.  A  month  later  (20th 
October,  1915),  we  find  him  struggling  hard  against  all 
prudential  concessions  to  illness  :  "  Feeling  very  unwell  for 
the  past  few  days,  I  gave  way  to  self-indulgence  in  food  and 
sleep.  Jesus  has  made  it  very  clear  to  me  that  this  has  not 
pleased  Him  :  '  I  have  sent  you  this  suffering  that  you  may 
suffer  more,  not  that  you  should  try  to  avoid  it.'  He  made 
me  put  on  the  chain  again  and  promise  Him,  as  long  as  I 
can  hold  out,  not  to  take  extra  sleep  etc.  Great  peace  and 
contentment  is  the  result."  And,  after  all,  was  not  the  result 
his  justification  ?  God  wants  us  to  serve  Him  in  peace 
and  contentment ;  we  do  not  all  attain  thereto  in  the 
same  way.1 

It  was  especially  the  night-time  that  Fr.  Doyle  chose  for 
self-inflicted  suffering.  Two  quotations,  in  addition  to  those 
already  given,  will  show  us  how  he  thus  combined  prayer 
and  penance. 

"  Last  night  I  rose  at  twelve  and  knelt  in  the  cellar  for 
an  hour  to  suffer  from  the  cold.  It  was  a  hard  fight  to  do 
so,  but  Jesus  helped  me.  I  said  my  rosary  with  arms 
extended.  At  the  third  mystery  the  pain  was  so  great  that 
I  felt  I  could  not  possibly  continue  ;  but  at  each  ave  I  prayed 

i. — Compare  the  general  principles  advocated  by  the  saints.  "The  poor 
soul  must  not  be  stifled.  Let  those  who  thus  suffer  realise  that  they  are  ill  ... 
Take  care  of  the  body  for  the  love  of  God,  because  at  many  other  times  the 
body  must  serve  the  soul.  Let  recourse  be  had  to  some  holy  recreations  such 
as  conversation,  walking  in  the  fields,  as  the  confessor  may  advise. — S.  Teresa, 
Life,  xi.  23-24.  "If  the  work  that  you  are  doing  is  necessary  to  you  or  very 
useful  for  God's  glory,  I  prefer  you  to  suffer  the  burden  of  work  than  that  of 
fasting.  This  is  the  view  ot  the  Church  which  dispenses  even  from  the 
prescribed  fasting  those  who  are  doing  work  useful  for  the  service  of  God  and 
the  neighbour." — S.  Francis  de  Sales,  Introduction  to  Devout  Life,  iii.  23. 
"The  works  of  penance  and  of  other  corporal  exercises  should  be  observed 
merely  as  a  means  and  not  as  the  fundamental  affection  of  the  soul.  .  .  .  No 
one  should  judge  that  he  has  greater  perfection,  because  he  performs  great 
penances  and  gives  himself  in  excess  to  the  slaying  of  his  body,  than  he  who 
does  less  ;  inasmuch  as  neither  virtue  nor  merit  consists  therein.  For  other 
wise  he  would  be  in  an  evil  case  who  from  some  legitimate  reason  was  unable 
to  do  actual  penance." — S.  Catherine  of  Siena,  Dialogue,  trans.  Thorold,  19072, 
pp.  56,  58.  For  S.  Ignatius  see  pp.  165,  169,  171  ;  S.  Thomas,  p.  169. 


164  FATHER  WILLIAM  DOYLE,   S.J. 

for  strength  and  was  able  to  finish  it.  This  has  given  me 
great  consolation  by  showing  the  many  hard  things  I  could 
do  with  the  help  of  prayer."  (22nd  January,  1915.) 

"  Last  night  I  rose  at  twelve,  tied  my  arms  in  the  form 
of  a  cross  and  remained  in  the  chapel  till  three  a.m.  I  was 
fiercely  tempted  not  to  do  so,  the  devil  suggesting  that,  as 
I  had  a  cough,  it  was  madness  and  would  unfit  me  for  the 
coming  mission.  Though  I  shivered  with  cold,  I  am  none 
the  worse  this  morning,  in  fact,  the  cough  is  better,  proving 
that  Jesus  is  pleased  with  these  '  holy  imprudences.'  At  the 
end  of  an  hour  I  was  cold  and  weary,  I  felt  I  could  not  possibly 
continue ;  but  I  prayed  and  got  wonderful  strength  to 
persevere  till  the  end  of  the  three  hours.  This  has  shown 
me  what  I  might  do  and  how,  with  a  little  determined  effort, 
I  could  overcome  the  greatest  repugnances  and  seeming 
impossibilities.  (27th  September,  1915.) 

It  seems  almost  a  desecration  to  lift  the  veil  and  to  disclose 
aught  that  happened  at  these  nocturnal  interviews  between 
Master  and  disciple.  A  citation  from  a  very  precious  and 
intimate  paper  will  suffice.1  "  He  seems  pleased  when  I  am 
alone  in  the  chapel  if  I  kneel  close  to  Him,  uncover  my  breast 
and  ask  Him  again  to  pour  His  grace  and  love  into  my  heart . 
I  often  press  my  throbbing  heart  to  the  door  of  the 
Tabernacle  to  let  Him  hear  its  beats  of  love ;  and  once,  to 
ease  the  pain  of  love,  I  tried  with  a  penknife  to  cut  the  sweet 
name  of  Jesus  on  my  breast.  It  was  not  a  success,  for  I 
suppose  my  courage  failed;  I  did  try  a  heated  iron,  but 
it  caused  an  ugly  sore." 

i.— This  little  incident  from  the  life  of  the  Venerable  Marie-TeVese,  foundress 
of  the  Sisters  of  Perpetual  Adoration,  may  be  quoted  as  showing  how  closely 
similar  are  the  spontaneous  outbursts  of  souls  afire  with  love."  "  I  was  speaking 
aloud  to  our  Saviour,  in  a  transport  of  love  more  burning  than  fever.  And  as 
I  was  lovingly  reproaching  Him  for  having  deceived  me  in  my  expectation  in 
not  showing  me  His  Crown  [the  relic  of  Notre-Dame],  I  thought  I  heard  these 
words  in  my  heart  :  '  My  blood  flows  in  your  heart  every  morning ;  take  the 
blood  of  your  heart,  it  is  Mine,  and  saturate  therewith  this  little  crown  '—my 
crucifix  had  a  very  small  crown  of  thorns.  I  could  not  have  resisted,  I  think  ; 
I  took  my  penknife  made  an  incision  and  I  marked  with  my  blood  not  only  the 

crown  but  all  the  wounds  of  Christ " — F«?by  Mgr.  d'Hulst,  19176,  p.  84  ; 

Life  of  Mother  Mary  Teresa  (tr.  by  Lady  Herbert,  1899).  p.  56.  It  were  surely 
dull-witted  and  materialistic  to  apply  mechanical  meticulous  criticism  to  such 
dramatically  heroic  intensity  of  devotion.  It  is  not  the  mere  physical  pain  but 
the  exteriorising  of  intensely  realistic  faith  which  merits  attention  ;  just  as 
when  S.  Gertrude  "snatched  the  iron  nails  from  a  crucifix  which  she  always 
kept  near  her  and  replaced  them  by  nails  of  sweet-smelling  cloves." — Life  and 
Revelations,  1865,  p.  225. 


HOLY   FOLLIES  165 

Some  other  heroic  acts  may  be  instanced.1  During  one 
freezing  winter,  having  previously  bound  himself  by  vow,  he 
set  his  alarum  for  three  o'clock  and  slipped  out  of  the  house 
in  his  nightshirt.  He  then  stood  up  to  his  neck  in  a  pond, 
praying  for  sinners.2  Sometimes  he  turned  the  ordinary 
discipline  into  a  horrifying  scourging  by  using  a  heavy  chain 
or  even  branches  with  long  strong  thorns.3  He  constantly 
wore  the  ordinary  chain,  and  at  least  once  he  heated  it,  not 
red  hot  of  course,  and  put  it  round  his  body  so  that  the 
points  raised  blisters.  Several  times  he  undressed  and  rolled 
in  furze  bushes  ;  "  the  pain  of  the  thousands  of  little  pricks," 
he  confesses,  "  is  intense  for  days  afterwards."  On  one  or 
two  occasions  he  forced  his  way  through  a  thorn  hedge  and 
was  in  consequence  terribly  torn  and  wounded.  Walking 
barefoot  on  stones  and  nettles  was  a  comparatively  frequent 
achievement.  Once  during  a  retreat  at  Delgany  in  1911, 
he  had  a  severe  "  accident,"4  being  badly  stung  by  nettles, 
so  much  so  that  the  doctor  took  a  very  serious  view  of  the 
case.  Fortunately  we  have  the  real  explanation  which  may 
be  best  given  in  his  own  words : 

"  It  really  was  not  an  accident.  That  day  the  love  of 
Jesus  Crucified  was  burning  in  my  heart  with  the  old  longing 
to  suffer  much  for  Him  and  even  give  Him  my  life  by 
martyrdom.  This  thought  was  in  my  mind  when,  crossing 
a  lonely  field  late  that  evening,  I  came  across  a  forest  of  old 


i. — While  on  the  continent  where  no  one  knew  him  Fr.  Doyle  subjected  him 
self  to  a  big  humiliation  in  church:  "I  used  to  go  into  the  church,  kiss  the 
floor  before  the  congregation,  and  pray  with  my  arms  outstretched.  I  felt 
people  thought  I  was  mad,  and  I  nearly  died  of  shame."  Cf.  p.  160. 

2. — Apparently  he  did  this  on  more  than  one  occasion.  Here  is  an  entry 
under  the  date  nth  April,  1915  :  "  Got  into  pond  at  two."  St.  Ignatius  once 
did  the  same  to  convert  a  sinner. 

3. — One  such  act  seems  quite  indefensible  as  Fr.  Doyle  himself  admitted  : 
"  Once  I  made  a  discipline  with  some  safety  razor  blades.  I  admit  this  was 
foolish  and  might  have  been  rather  serious,  as  some  blows  cut  to  the  very  bone. 
The  blood  ran  down  my  body  till  a  small  pond  had  formed* on  the  floor  and 
through  prudence  I  ceased,  but  the  blood  flowed  a  long  time  and  I  suffered 
much  from  the  pain  of  the  cuts."  St.  Ignatius  says  in  the  Additions  to  the 
First  Week  {Spiritual  Exercises,  p.  31) :  "What  seems  to  be  most  convenient 
and  safe  in  the  matter  of  penance  is  that  the  pain  should  be  sensible  to  the  flesh 
and  not  penetrate  to  the  bone,  so  that  pain  and  not  sickness  should  be  the 
result.  For  which  purpose  it  seems  to  be  more  convenient  to  discipline  oneself 
with  small  cords  which  cause  pain  exteriorly,  than  to  do  so  in  any  other  way 
from  which  may  result  any  notable  injury  to  the  health." 

4. — The  nuns  to  whom  he  was  giving  the  retreat  were  under  the  impression 
that  he  had  taken  internally  some  medicine  meant  for  external  application. 


166  FATHER  WILLIAM  DOYLE,   SJ. 

nettles.  Here  was  a  chance  !  Had  not  the  saints  suffered 
in  this  way  for  Him  with  joy  and  gladness  of  heart  ?  I 
undressed  and  walked  up  and  down  until  my  whole  body 
was  one  big  blister,  smarting  and  stinging.  Words  could 
never  describe  the  sweet  but  horrible  agony  from  that  moment 
till  far  into  the  next  day.  Not  for  a  moment  did  I  close 
my  eyes,  for  as  the  poison  worked  into  the  blood  the  fever 
mounted  and  the  pain  increased.  Then  began  what  I  can 
only  call  a  flogging  from  head  to  foot  with  red-hot  needles. 
It  started  at  the  feet  and  crept  up  to  my  face  and  back  again 
so  regularly  that  I  almost  thought  that  some  unseen  hand 
was  at  work.  More  than  once  I  knelt  by  my  bed  and  offered 
Him  my  life,  as  I  felt  I  could  not  live,  and  then  in  my  weak 
ness  begged  Him  to  have  pity  on  me,  and  yet  the  moment 
after  He  gave  me  strength  to  murmur,  '  Still  more,  dear 
Lord,  a  thousand  times  more  for  Your  dear  love.' 

"  Then  suddenly  when  the  pain  was  greatest,  an  extra 
ordinary  peace,  happiness  and  joy  filled  my  soul ;  and  though 
I  saw  nothing  with  the  eyes  of  either  soul  or  body,  I  had  the 
conviction  that  Jesus  was  standing  by  me — the  sure  feeling 
one  has  when  a  person  is  in  a  darkened  room  though  one 
cannot  see  him.  What  took  place  I  cannot  say,  but  it  seemed 
to  me  as  if  He  was  thanking  me  for  trying  to  bear  the  agony 
for  Him,  and  then  He  seemed  to  ask  me  what  I  would  have 
from  Him  in  return.  '  Fill  my  heart  with  Your  love,  dearest 
Lord/  I  remember  saying.  And  then  I  lay  motionless,  all 
suffering  seemed  to  have  ceased  while  Jesus — I  can  only 
express  it  in  this  way — took  His  own  Heart  and  poured 
Jts  love  into  mine  till  It  almost  seemed  to  be  empty. 

"  One  thing  more  I  remember  saying,  '  Lord,  if  it  is  really 
You,  give  me  a  proof  of  Your  goodness  by  curing  me  in 
the  morning.'  When  I  tried  to  rise,  my  legs  felt  paralyzed, 
I  staggered  like  a  drunken  man  to  the  convent,  I  could  only 
mumble  the  words  of  Mass.  But  the  moment  His  Sacred 
Body  touched  my  lips,  I  felt  a  change  come  over  me,  and  I 
was  actually  able  to  give  the  morning  lecture  as  usual.  I 
suffered  a  good  deal  from  the  after-effects,  but  I  believe 
that  Jesus  worked  a  miracle." 

Such  an  account  seems  to  disarm  all  criticism.  "  Here 
was  a  chance  !  "  His  love  for  suffering  was  as  irrepressible 


HOLY  FOLLIES  167 

as  a  boy's  instinct  for  a  prank.1  To  frame  regulations  for 
one  so  afire  with  the  love  of  Christ  is  like  reducing  heroism 
to  rule-of -thumb.  A  war-charger  is  not  to  be  trained  like 
a  dray-horse,  nor  can  a  tiger  be  set  mouse-catching  with 
his  weaker  brother  the  cat.  Fr.  Doyle  knew  quite  as  much 
about  the  virtue  of  prudence  as  the  reader  of  these  lines.2 
It  was  quite  calmly  and  deliberately  that,  like  many  of  the 
saints,  he  '  cast  it  to  the  winds.'  He  held  that  God  was 
inspiring  him  to  a  certain  course  of  action  and  helping  him 
therein.  And  where  is  the  evidence  with  which  we  can 
gainsay  him  ?3 

In  order  to  appreciate  in  their  true  perspective  these 
exploits  of  Fr.  Doyle,  it  will  be  helpful  to  glance  at  some 
similar  incidents  in  the  life  of  another  Jesuit.  Fr.  Paul 
Segneri  (f  1694)  used  to  walk  barefooted  to  his  missions, 
often  traversing  over  eight  hundred  miles  a  year  in  this  way. 
His  invariable  custom  was  to  discipline  himself  twice  or 
three  times  a  day ;  for  over  thirty  years  he  slept  on  bare 
boards,  his  sleep  never  exceeding  six  hours.  Several  times 
he  rolled  himself  naked  in  the  snow  and  at  least  once  he 
threw  himself  naked  among  thorns  ;  as  a  final  refinement  of 
cruelty,  he  used  to  cause  boiling  wax  to  drop  all  over  his 
body.  4  During  his  missions  he  was  not  content  with 
scourging  himself  publicly — as  was  then  the  custom — with 

i. — Similarly  we  read  in  Lady  Lovat's  Clare  Vaughan  (new  ed.,  New  York, 
1896,  p.  26) :  "  We  happened  to  be  passing  through  a  stubble  field,  and  breaking 
off  suddenly  from  what  she  had  been  talking  about,  she  cried  :  '  I  have  a 
splendid  idea  !  Supposing  we  take  off  our  shoes  and  stockings  and  walk  bare 
foot  through  the  stubble  field?"  It  was  no  sooner  said  than  done  ;  and  I  can 
see  now  the  calm  enjoyment  with  which  Clare  walked  up  and  down  those  cruel 
many-bristling  thorns,  .  .  .  till  at  last  she  was  obliged  to  succumb  and  allow 
the  poor  bleeding  feet  to  be  tied  up.  Another  day  we  came  across  a  flourishing 
family  of  nettles,  and  she  instantly  seized  hold  of  a  large  bunch  in  order  to 
discipline  herself  with  them  at  leisure  on  her  return  home." 

2. — See  for  example  his  views  and  advice  to  others,  pp.  108,  211  ff. 

3. — It  is  a  curious  fact  that  often  in  the  case  of  favoured  souls  this  holy 
indiscretion  does  not  seem  to  produce  the  deleterious  effects  which  might  be 
expected.  "  In  a  greater  degree  even  than  the  heart,"  remarks  Pere  Suau,  S.  J., 
"the  soul  that  is  guided  by  God  has  reasons  which  human  intellect  is  ignorant 
of ;  and  when  grace  inspires  anyone  to  suffer  by  way  of  reparation,  that  which 
tends  to  kill  gives  life  and  that  which  tends  to  heal  brings  on  death." — Life  of 
Mother  Mary  of  Jesus  (Eng.  trans,  by  Fr.  Gallery),  1913,  p.  207. 

4. — The  Lives  of  Fr.  P.  Segneri,  Fr.  P.  Pinamontt,  and  the  Ven.  John  de  Britto, 
London  1851,  pp.  19,  143,  146,  149.  He  always  entertained  "a  burning  desire 
to  shed  his  blood  and  give  up  his  life  in  honour  of  Christ  "  and  with  this  hope 
volunteered  for  the  East  Indies,  (p.  16).  "With  regard  to  his  mortifications,  he 
asked  and  obtained  general  permission  from  his  confessor  to  use  them  as  far  as 
he  thought  he  could  without  considerable  prejudice  to  his  health."  (p.  15). 


168  FATHER  WILLIAM   DOYLE,   SJ. 

an  iron  discipline,"  he  invented  another  instrument  yet 
more  barbarous,  which  was  a  circular  piece  of  cork  armed 
with  about  fifty  sharp  points.  With  this  he  used  to  strike 
violently  his  naked  breast  during  the  last  penitential 
procession,  and  on  other  occasions  when  he  was  anxious  to 
conquer  the  obstinacy  of  such  as  persisted  in  refusing  to 
make  peace  with  their  enemies.  So  much  blood  was  by 
this  means  drawn  from  his  veins,  that  in  course  of  time  the 
physicians,  to  obviate  the  danger  of  his  life,  found  it  necessary 
to  oblige  him  to  lay  aside  the  practice."1 

Exaggerated  and  imprudent  ?  Perhaps.  But  let  us  not 
be  more  impatiently  ready  to  condemn  the  few  rare  instances 
of  indiscreet  fervour  than  we  are  to  denounce  the  widespread 
worship  of  ease  and  comfort.  "  Let  not  him  that  eateth," 
says  S.  Paul  (Rom.  14.  3),  "  despise  him  that  eateth  not ; 
and  he  that  eateth  not,  let  him  not  judge  him  that  eateth." 
There  is  need  for  large-hearted  tolerance  even  among  those 
who,  each  in  his  own  way,  are  following  Christ.  There  are 
indeed  dangers  in  all  extremes  ;  an  orgy  of  blood-letting 
may  be  morbid  and  self-willed,2  just  as  what  is  called 
common-sense  goodness  may  be  merely  an  excuse  for  slothful 
mediocrity.  In  one  that  is  filled  with  a  great  ideal  there  is 
always  something  extreme,  an  impetuous  enthusiasm  whose 
expression  may  at  times  be  gauche  or  reckless.  "He  that 
loves  truly,"  says  A  Kempis,3  "  flies,  runs  and  is  always 
full  of  joy  ;  he  is  free  and  will  not  be  held  back.  He  gives 
all  for  all  and  has  all  in  all,  because  he  rests  in  One 


i. — Ibid.,  p.  27. 

2. — So  Fr.  Doyle  discouraged  '  frenzy.' — See  p.  213. 

3. — Imitation  of  Christ  iii.  5,  4.  Compare  these  reflections  of  Fr.  Paul 
Segneri  (on  I.  Cor.,  4.  10)  :  "  There  is  a  great  difference  between  being-  wise 
in  Christ  and  being  a  fool  for  Christ.  Both  are  good  ;  but  the  apostle  was  not 
satisfied  with  the  former  and  preferred  the  latter.  There  is  a  worldly  wisdom 
which  makes  a  man  wicked  ;  there  is  a  wisdom  in  Christ  which  does  not 
prevent  a  man  from  being  just ;  there  is  a  foolishness  for  Christ  which  makes  a 
man  holy.  .  .  .  Now  for  my  conclusion.  1  shall  never  accomplish  much  if  I 
measure  everything  by  the  rules  of  singular  prudence  and  exact  circumspection. 
I  shall  be  good  ;  but  I  shall  never  be  a  saint.  .  .  .  What  shall  we  decide  to 
do  ?  Why  so  much  examination  ?  Why  so  much  consideration  ?  If  we  do  not 
succeed,  what  shall  we  have  done  ?  Folly,  yes  ;  hut  folly  committed  for  Christ. 

That  is  enough  for  us We  should  therefore  become  foolish  for  Christ, 

which  means  :  Let  us  work  simply  for  Christ,  look  only  at  Christ,  have  Him 
for  the  sole  end  of  our  works,  then  we  shall  commit  foolishness  and  we  shall  be 
saints."— "  Thoughts  during  Prayer"  in  Lights  in  Prayer  (Quarterly  Series) 
PP-  305-309- 


HOLY   FOLLIES  169 

alone.  .  .  .  Love  knows  no  bounds  but  burns  with 
boundless  fervour.  Love  feels  no  burden,  counts  no  cost, 
longs  to  do  even  more  than  it  is  able  for  and  never  pleads 
impossibility,  because  everything  then  seems  lawful  and 
possible.  Hence  a  lover  of  God  is  strong  enough  for  every 
thing  and  carries  out  many  things  where  he  that  has  no  love 
fails  and  falls  to  the  ground." 

The  instances  of  Fr.  Segneri  and  Fr.  Doyle  show  us  the 
wise  latitude  with  which  S.  Ignatius  provides  for  different 
types  of  holiness  in  his  Company.  Not  that  each  one  may 
seek  out  his  own  path  according  to  his  freak  or  fancy,  not 
that  one's  own  subjective  impulses  and  experiences  are  to 
decide  the  will  of  the  Holy  Spirit.  S.  Ignatius  lays  down 
a  wise  rule  which  may  be  given  here  by  way  of  fitting 
conclusion  : 

'The  way  of  living,  as  to  exterior  things,  ....  is 
common  ;  nor  are  there  customary  penances  or  afflictions 
of  the  body  to  be  undergone  by  way  of  obligation.  But 
each  one  may  choose  those  which,  with  the  superior's 
approval,  will  seem  to  be  suitable  for  his  greater  spiritual 
progress,  and  which  for  the  same  end  superiors  may  impose 
on  them."1 


i. — Summariuni  Constitulioiium  S.J.,  n.  4.  S.  Francis  de  Sales  says 
similarly  :  "  Abstinence  which  is  practised  against  obedience  takes  away  the 
sin  from  the  body  to  put  it  in  the  heart.  Let  her  give  her  attention  to  cutting 
off  her  own  will  and  she  will  soon  quit  these  phantoms  of  sanctity  in  which  she 
reposes  so  superstitiously.  She  has  consecrated  her  corporal  strength  to  God  ; 
it  is  not  for  her  to  break  it  down  unless  God  so  order  it  ;  and  she  will  never 
learn  what  God  orders  save  by  obedience  to  the  creatures  whom  the  Creator 
has  given  her  for  her  guidance." — Letters  to  Persons  in  Religion,  Eng.  trans. 
(Mackay),  19018,  p.  183.  "It  is  advisable  never  to  adopt  bodily  mortifications 
without  the  direction  of  our  spiritual  guide." — Introduction  to  Devout  Life,  iii.  23. 
Also  S.  Thomas:  "The  chastisement  of  the  body,  for  example  by  vigils  and 
lasts,  is  not  acceptable  to  God  except  in  so  far  as  it  is  a  work  of  virtue  ;  i.e.,  in 
so  far  as  it  is  done  with  due  discretion,  so  that  passion  is  restrained  and  nature 
not  overburdened." — Summa,  2.  2,  q  88,  a  2,  ad  3. 


170  FATHER  WILLIAM  DOYLE,   S.J. 

CHAPTER  VIII. 

SPIRITUAL     DIRECTION 

(i.)  His  OWN  SOUL. 

FR.  Doyle  had  himself  so  much  direct  spiritual  experience 
and  such  great  reliance  on  the  inspirations  of  the 
Holy  Spirit,  that  any  direction  might  seem  in  his 
case  superfluous.  Yet  this  would  be  a  misinterpretation.  It 
is  obvious,  of  course,  that  a  fully  formed  Jesuit,  after  years 
of  prayer,  instruction  and  reading,  and  a  complete  course 
of  theology,  .is  not  in  need  of  that  minute  guidance  and 
detailed  help  which  are  usually  necessary  for  beginners  in 
the  spiritual  life  and  for  timorous  scrupulous  souls.  But  it 
is  a  distinctive  mark  of  Catholic  spirituality,  as  opposed  to 
all  systems  of  private  judgement  or  self -guided  mysticism, 
that  inner  experience  must  be  brought  to  the  test  of  objective 
dogma,  and  also  should  be  moulded  by  that  comprehensive 
tradition  of  practical  religion  which  is  embodied  in  the 
wonderful  structure  of  Catholic  discipline  and  direction. 
There  is  nothing  repressive  or  mechanically  imposed  in  all 
this  ;  it  is  only  misguided  individualism  which  is  eliminated  ; 
when  freakishness  is  obviated,  liberty  is  increased.  Within 
the  great  corporate  life  of  Catholicism  there  is  ample  room 
for  every  individuality.1  How  marvellously  diverse  and 
manifold  are  the  saints,  and  yet  they  have  an  unmistakable 
family  likeness.  They  thought  and  spoke  of  God  just  as 
we  do  ;  their  outward  religious  life  was  practically  the  same 
as  ours  ;  they  shared  the  same  Faith  and  partook  of  the 
same  Sacraments.  Thus  we  see  that,  apart  altogether  from 

i. — The  sense  of  spiritual  freedom  is  the  first  feeling  of  converts  from 
Protestantism.  "  When  my  conversion  to  the  Catholic  Church  was  accomplished, 
I  was  filled  with  the  happy  consciousness,  Now  at  last  I  am  free.  Protestants 
will  very  probably  have  supposed  the  contrary." — Albert  von  Ruville,  Back  to 
Holy  Church  (1910),  p.  127.  "  I  can  register  one  impression  at  once,  curiously 

inconsistent  with  my  preconceived  notions  on  the  subject I  have  been 

overwhelmed  with  the  feeling  ot  liberty,  the  glorious  liberty  of  the  sons  of 
God."— R.  A.  Knox,  A  Spiritual  Aeneid,  1918,  p.  247.  So  also  Fr.  Maturin, 
Price  of  Unity,  1912,  p.  241 ;  and  Mgr.  Benson,  Confessions  of  a  Convert,  p.  160. 


Fr.   William  Doyle,   S.J.,  Aberdeen,   1908. 


HIS   OWN   SOUL  171 

any  question  of  individual  direction,  there  is  in  the  Church 
an  immense  amount  of  objective  guidance  and  help.  Every 
one  of  us  has  to  kneel  at  the  feet  of  God's  minister  for 
absolution  ;  we  all  gather  round  the  same  altar  of  sacrifice 
and  kneel  in  the  glad  presence  of  our  eucharistic  Lord.  And 
we  thence  draw  not  only  supernatural  aid,  but  also,  by  the 
loving  economy  of  the  Incarnation,  natural  help  and 
encouragement.  Without  frequent  confession  and  absolution, 
how  could  we  keep  our  consciences  pure  and  healthy  and 
our  souls  refreshed  with  God's  forgiveness  P1  How  could 
religious  life,  naturally  so  irksome,  bring  such  peace  and 
happiness,  were  it  not  for  the  closeness  of  the  Real 
Presence  ?  How  wonderfully  are  our  Lord's  words  ful 
filled  :  "  Come  to  Me  all  you  that  labour  and  are  burdened, 
and  I  will  refresh  you.  Take  My  yoke  upon  you  .  .  .  and 
you  shall  find  rest  to  your  souls."  (5.  Matthew  n.  28.) 

Fr.  Doyle,  therefore,  had  the  sacramental  helps  and 
disciplinary  guidance  common  to  all  faithful  Catholics. 
Moreover,  he  had  studied  theology  and  was  well  read  in 
ascetical  and  devotional  literature.  But  all  this  did  not 
dispense  him  from  seeking  the  approval  of  his  confessor  or 
director.  St.  Ignatius  says  distinctly  to  his  subjects  :2 

'  They  must  not  conceal  any  temptation,  which  they  do 
not  disclose  to  the  spiritual  father  or  confessor  or  superior ; 
indeed  it  ought  to  be  most  agreeable  to  them  that  their 
whole  soul  should  be  entirely  manifest  to  them.  They  must 
disclose  not  only  their  defects,  but  also  their  penances  or 
mortifications  and  all  their  devotions  and  virtues,  with  a  pure 
will  desiring  to  be  directed  by  them,  if  perchance  they  deviate 
from  what  is  right ;  not  wishing  to  be  led  by  their  own 


i. — "  If  there  were  nothing  else  known  to  me  of  the  Catholic  Church,"  writes 
Dom  J.  Chapman  (Bishop  Gore  and  the  Catholic  Claims,  1905,  p.  120),  "but  her 
system  of  confession  as  I  know  it  by  experience,  it  would  be  enough  alone  to 
prove  to  me  her  divine  origin."  And  even  William  James  acknowledges  that 
by  confession  "  a  man's  accounts  with  evil  are  periodically  squared  and  audited, 
so  that  he  may  start  the  clean  page  with  no  old  debts  inscribed  ;  any  Catholic 
will  tell  us  how  clean  and  fresh  and  free  he  feels  after  the  purging  operation.  "— 
Varieties  of  Religious  Experience,  1902,  p.  128.  See  also  the  testimonies  of  Irish 
Catholic  soldiers  later  on  in  this  book. 

2. — Summarium  Constitutionum,  n.  41.     Cf.  n.  48  :  "  The  chastisement  of  the 

body  ought  not  to  be  immoderate Hence  each  one  should  disclose  to 

his  confessor  whatever  he  does  in  this  matter."     A  similar  injunction  occurs  in 
the  rule  of  S.  Benedict  (ch.  49). 


172  FATHER  WILLIAM   DOYLE,   S.J. 

opinion  unless  it  agrees  with  the  judgement  of  those  whom 
they  have  in  the  place  of  Christ  our  Lord." 

In  the  intimate  writings,  which  formed  the  basis  of  our 
account  of  Fr.  Doyle's  inner  life,  there  are  naturally  few 
references  to  external  direction.  But  those  that  do  occur 
indicate  clearly  that  he  always  submitted  his  plans  and 
penances  to  a  confessor.1  We  also  know  that  for  several 
years  he  used  to  go  to  confession  to  Fr.  Matthew  Russell, 
whose  holiness  he  esteemed  and  with  whom  he  liked  to  have 
spiritual  talks.  Once  after  confession  Fr.  Russell  turned  to 
Fr.  Doyle  and  said,  "  You  will  go  far,  my  child."  When 
asked  what  he  meant,  he  merely  repeated,  "  You  will  go 
far."  We  may  certainly  conclude  that  Fr.  Russell  knew 
many  of  the  secrets  of  his  penitent.  Later  on,  Fr.  Doyle 
was  instructed  by  the  Provincial  to  submit  his  penances 
and  mortifications  to  a  certain  Father.  Much  to  Fr.  Doyle's 
surprise,  for  he  was  expecting  a  drastic  curtailment,  this 
Father  approved  of  his  practices  with  some  slight 
modifications  and  told  him  to  follow  the  inspirations  of  the 
Holy  Spirit  who  was  leading  him.  These  indications  will 
serve  to  show  that,  while  directing  and  guiding  the  souls 
of  others,  Fr.  Doyle  himself  submitted  to  that  divine  yet 
human  scheme  whereby  men  are  made  their  brothers'  keepers 
and  each  can  find  an  alter  Christus.  Not  only  did  he  seek 
the  approval  and  advice  of  superiors  and  confessors,  but  on 
more  than  one  occasion  he  consulted  expert  directors  and 
masters  of  the  spiritual  lite.2  'He  thus  secured  that  his  inner 
life  was  in  perfect  unison  with  that  unceasing  harmony  of 
holiness  which  through  the  ages  has  been  one  of  the  marks 
of  the  true  Church  3 


i. — See  for  example  p.  146  concerning  his  proposed  vow.  Also  we  find  the 
following  entry  in  his  diary  :  "  Penances  allowed,  2nd  July,  1914.  (i)  Discipline 
fifteen  strokes  once  a  day  ;  (2)  arm-chain  till  dinner  ;  (3)  waist-chain  or  hair 
cloth  an  hour  daily  ;  (4)  rise  for  moment  at  night ;  (5)  sleep  on  boards 
occasionally  ;  (6)  little  butter  at  breakfast  ;  (7)  none  at  lunch  ;  (8)  no  sweets,  etc., 
at  meals  ;  (q)  Holy  Hour  weekly.  Revoked  in  November,  1914." 

2. — During-  his  visit  to  the  Continent  in  1912  (see  p.  74),  Fr.  Doyle  took  the 
opportunity  of  consulting  Pere  Petit,  S.J.,  and  the  Abb£  S.  Legueu,  the  director 
of  Sceur  Gertrude-Marie  and  editor  of  her  autobiography  (Une  mystique  de 
nos  jours,  1910). 

3.— "The  real  and  secure  teaching  on  the  subject  [of  locutions  and  inspirations] 
is,  not  to  give  heed  to  them  however  plausible  they  may  be,  but  to  be  governed 
in  all  by  reason  and  by  what  the  Church  has  taught  and  teaches  us  every 
day." — S.  John  of  the  Cross,  Ascent  of  Mount  Carmel  ii.  30,  5. 


DIRECTOR   OF   OTHERS  173 


(2.)   DIRECTOR  OF  OTHERS. 

Although  Fr.  Doyle  laboured  energetically  and  fruitfully 
as  a  missioner,  his  real  gift  and  taste  lay  rather  in  his  work 
as  director  of  souls.  He  preferred  dealing  directly  and 
personally  with  the  individual  to  appealing  to  crowds, 
intensive  culture  of  a  few  chosen  souls  rather  than  slight 
impersonal  influence  on  many.  He  shrank,  too,  from  the 
pain  of  probing  into  the  ulcers  of  humanity.  '  The  con 
solation  of  absolving  sinners,"  he  says  in  one  of  his  letters 
(1913),  "  does  not  lessen  the  pain  of  hearing  all  day  a  litany 
of  awful  sins  and  outrages  against  the  good  and  patient 
God.  .  .  .  You  have  guessed  rightly  the  longing  of  my 
heart,  namely,  to  help  others  to  realise  the  words  of  Scripture, 
'  He  that  is  holy,  let  him  be  sanctified  still.'  '  (Apoc. 
22.  n.)  On  the  other  hand,  his  preference  for  work  among 
chosen  souls  was  absolutely  removed  from  anything  remotely 
approaching  snobbery  ;  his  valuation  was  purely  spiritual. 
He  once  referred  to  a  ladies'  retreat  which  he  had  to  give, 
as  "  a  job  I  do  not  relish — it  is  too  much  of  a  social  affair 
and  not  earnest  work."  He  always  insisted  on  "  the  real 
thing "  in  holiness,  the  genuine  article  branded  with  the 
cross  ;  he  had  no  patience  with  amateurish  piety  or  devotional 
flippancy.  Even  by  natural  character  he  detested  doing 
things  by  halves  ;  as  he  said  himself,  he  was  "  a  whole- 
hogger."  At  the  outset  of  his  ministry1  he  perhaps  expected 
too  much  from  weak  human  nature,  but  he  soon  acquired 
the  art  of  gentle  leading  and  gradual  guidance.  Not  that 
he  avoided  all  mistakes — only  the  negative  critic  does  that. 
But  he  went  on  his  way,  every  day  drawing  souls  closer  to 

i. — Compare  Pere  Ginhac  :  "  In  the  beg-irming-  he  did  not  make  sufficient 
allowance  for  the  frailty  of  human  nature  in  his  desire  to  advance  souls  to  the 

very  highest  perfection Later  on  he  became  as  large-hearted  and 

indulgent  in  his  direction  as  he  was  formerly  inclined  to  be  rigid.  .  .  .  Towards 
the  end  of  his  life  [he  lived  to  over  70],  gentleness  became  his  chief 
characteristic. " — A  Man  After  God's  Own  Heart,  p.  63.  "  Fr.  Ginhac  at  this 
period  of  his  life  was  not  quite  enough  on  his  guard  against  the  impulses 

inspired  in  generous  souls  by  their  first  fervour Later  on,   taught   by 

experience,  he  restrained  these  immoderate  desires  for  corporal  mortification." 
— Ibid.,  p.  i Oi. 


174  FATHER  WILLIAM   DOYLE,   S.J. 

Christ,  advocating  without  compromise  what  he  knew  to  be 
Christ's  ideal,  modifying  what  he  believed  to  be  merely  its 
outer  or  temporary  expression,  accepting  as  inevitable  the 
criticism  of  those  who  prefer  things  as  they  are  and  deprecate 
the  better  on  the  plea  of  letting  well  alone. 

That  he  was  wonderfully  successful  as  a  director  was  shown 
by  the  void  which  his  death  created,  to  which  many  dozens 
of  letters  bear  touching  testimony.  To  this  success  many 
qualities  contributed.  In  the  first  place  he  was  unaffectedly 
and  unobtrusively  polite  ;  a  quality  which,  just  because  it 
is  not  necessarily  associated  with  holiness,  must  not  be 
undervalued.  "  Fr.  Doyle,"  a  nun  declared  with  emphasis, 
"  always  treats  one  as  a  lady."  Grace  of  manner, 
allied  with  thoughtfulness,  always  creates  a  favourable 
prepossession.  Furthermore,  Fr.  Doyle  was  obviously  pains 
taking  and  unselfish,  he  never  shrank  from  trouble  when  the 
issue  was  the  good  of  even  a  single  soul,  he  never  grumbled 
or  complained  of  inroads  made  on  his  time  and  temper.1 
In  addition  to  all  this,  he  had  '  a  way  with  him,'  a  natural 
attractiveness  and  spontaneity,  an  infectious  gaiety.  He 
had  nothing  of  prudery  or  stiffness  about  him,  no  depressingly 
impersonal  smile  or  manner,  no  angularities  or  excrescences.2 
His  emotions  did  not  seem  to  move  on  merely  celestial  hinges, 
nor  did  his  movements  appear  to  be  regulated  by  spiritual 
clockwork.  Those  whom  he  helped  felt  that  he  had  a  real 
personal  interest  in  them,  he  did  not  regard  them  as  so  much 
undifferentiated  soul-stuff.  Moreover,  in  his  retreat-talks  or 
private  conversations  he  did  not  use  stilted  language  or 

i. — There  are  in  his  diary  two  entries  bearing  on  this.  "  I  felt  greatly 
annoyed  to-day  because  I  was  kept  hearing  confessions  for  nearly  five  hours 
without  lunch,  and  also  on  arriving  at  X  because  asked  to  hear  more  confessions. 
....  I  see  now  that  it  was  Jesus  did  it  all  and  that  in  future  I  must  let  nothing 
ruffle  me  since  these  things  come  straight  from  His  hand."  (26th  July,  1914.) 
"  I  was  very  much  annoyed  at  Y  about  extra  work  and  confessions  during  the 
retreat.  Our  Lord  reproached  me  for  this,  making  me  see  more  clearly  that  all 
this  came  from  His  hand  and  not  from  '  the  thoughtlessness  of  others'  as  I  told 
myself.  I  told  several  people  about  what  I  suffered  and  my  pains,  etc.,  which 
Jesus  wanted  me  to  keep  to  myself."  (ist  September,  1915.)  Even  holy  people 
can  at  times  be  thoughtless  and  provoking  ;  on  such  occasions  Fr.  Doyle  was 
clearly  not  helped  by  any  natural  obtusity  or  placidity. 

2. — Pere  Ginhac  was  thus  criticised  by  one  of  his  novices  :  "  Every  one  of  his 
movements  is  studied.  If  he  speaks  affectionately,  if  he  smiles  or  is  amiable, 
one  can  see  that  it  is  all  regulated  by  the  will  and  that  he  acts  thus  because 
God  wishes  it  so.  One  would  prefer  something  a  little  more  spontaneous, 
something  a  little  more  from  the  heart." — A  Man  After  God's  O-wn  Heart,  p.  96. 


DIRECTOR  OF   OTHERS  175 

conventional  phraseology,  he  spoke  with  homely  directness. 
Thus  he  would  say  :  "  There  are  three  D's  which  you  ought 
to  avoid — the  Doctor,  the  Devil,  and  the  Dumps.  You 
can  cheat  the  doctor  and  run  from  the  devil,  but  the  dumps 
are  the  divil  !  "  He  did  not  think  that  holiness  lost  by 
being  conjoined  with  a  sense  of  humour.  Nor  did  he  neglect 
any  available  helps  to  imagination,  memory  or  sentiment. 
In  giving  a  retreat  to  children  and  even  adults  he  sometimes 
gave  one  of  the  daily  instructions  with  the  aid  of  lantern- 
slides,  a  method  of  vivid  presentation  which  always  made 
a  deep  impression.1  He  also  had  recourse  to  what  may  be 
termed  little  dodges  or  stratagems.  For  example,  one  of 
his  favourite  aspirations  was  '  Omnipotent  God  make  me  a 
saint.'  This  he  had  printed  on  small  pink  leaflets  which, 
parodying  a  well-known  advertisement,  he  called  (Father 
William's)  "  pink  pills  for  pale  saints  "  or,  as  he  once  put 
it,  "  intended  to  make  pale  souls  ruddy  with  the  love  of 
God."  He  once  sent  a  box  of  these  to  a  convent  with  the 
following  "  directions  for  use  "  :  "  To  be  taken  frequently 
during  the  day,  and  occasionally  at  night,  as  directed  by  the 
physician  ;  when  the  disease  is  deeply  rooted  and  of  long 
standing,  increase  the  dose  to  every  quarter  of  an  hour ; 
result  infallible,  will  either  cure  or  kill  !  "  This  may  seem 
a  rather  elaborate  joke,  especially  when  put  in  cold  print. 
But  there  are  many  to  whom  the  presentation  of  a  '  pink 
pill '  was  the  first  not  easily  forgotten  introduction  to  the 
use  of  aspirations.  Besides,  this  kindly  humour  was  simply 
natural  to  the  man  and  brought  an  element  of  humanness 
into  relations  too  often  regarded  as  formal  or  dismal. 

Beyond  and  behind  all  these  qualities  and  activities  there 
was  something  which  can  only  be  called  personal  influence. 
It  was  not  any  gifts  of  mind  and  heart,  nor  was  it  just  facility 
of  expression,  nor  yet  quick  intuitive  sympathy  ;  it  was  all 
this  and  more.  There  was  about  Fr.  Doyle  as  director  that 
intangible  indefinable  thing  which  we  term  personality.  It 
was  not  so  much  the  words  that  moved  people  as  the  man 
behind  the  words,  not  so  much  what  he  said  as  what  he 

i.  —  He  had  projected  a  meditation  book,  the  chief  innovation  in  which  was  to 
be  that  each  meditation  was  accompanied  by  a  picture  representing-  the  scene 
or  "  composition  of  place." 


176  FATHER   WILLIAM   DOYLE,   S.J. 

was.  Not  that  he  ever  spoke  of  himself  or  his  own  spiritual 
life.1  One  might  perhaps  guess  at  details  of  prayer  and 
mortification.  But  that  was  not  uppermost  in  one's  mind 
when  one  came  into  real  contact  with  him  ;  one  thought, 
not  of  details,  but  of  the  whole  man.  One  seemed  to  feel 
the  radiance  of  the  love  with  which  he  was  afire  as  distinctly 
as  if  it  were  a  physical  rise  of  temperature.  He  was  so 
transparently  earnest,  the  words  came,  as  it  were,  charged 
with  something  more  than  meaning.  To  those  who  knew 
Fr.  Doyle  by  casual  acquaintanceship,  all  this  may  sound 
exaggerated.  But  it  is  a  faithful  description  of  the  impression 
which  he  made  on  those  who  sought  from  him  guidance 
and  help.  And  it  enables  us  to  realise  that  in  such  spiritual 
relationship  there  is  something  more  than  moral  or  ascetic 
theology,  more  than  eloquence  or  elocution.  Does  not  the 
secret  lie  in  our  Lord's  own  criterion  of  fruitfulness  ?  "Amen, 
amen,  I  say  to  you,  unless  the  grain  of  wheat  falling  into 
the  ground  die,  itself  remaineth  alone  ;  but  if  it  die,  it  bringeth 
forth  much  fruit."  (S.  John  12.  24.)  Or,  to  change  the 
simile  but  not  the  reality :  "As  the  branch  cannot  bear 
fruit  of  itself  unless  it  abide  in  the  vine,  so  neither  can  you 
unless  you  abide  in  Me."  (S.  John  15.  4.)'-' 

Fr.  Doyle  did  not  confine  himself  to  personal  interviews, 
he  kept  up  a  heavy  correspondence.  How  he  managed  it, 
in  spite  of  his  other  multitudinous  activities,  is  something 
of  a  mystery.  It  was  to  the  end  a  heavy  strain,  absorbing 
much  time  and  energy.  Often  he  found  it  a  wearisome 
burden  and  felt  inclined  to  abandon  what  after  reflection 
he  always  came  again  to  consider  a  real  apostolate.  "  When 
a  man  takes  the  pledge  for  life,"  he  once  wrote,  "  he  generally 
asks  for  just  one  more  drink.  I  have  made  a  resolution 
this  year  not  to  grumble  about  letters,  so  I  am  entitled  to 
have  one  last  growl.  The  growl  is  only  an  apology  for  not 
answering  your  welcome  letter  sooner.  But  it  reached  me 

i. — Compare  this,  written  to  a  nun  :  "I  fear  you  have  let  fall  from  time  to 
time  little  hints  about  God's  graces  to  you,  which  people  have  taken  in  joke. 
You  must  be  careful  to  hide  the  King's  secret  from  all." 

2. — Here  is  a  quotation  from  a  letter  to  Fr.  Doyle  (1916)  to  which  many 
similar  testimonies  could  be  added  :  "  Everyone  I  met  seemed  to  hold  me  back 
instead  of  helping-  me  forward,  but  you  brought  new  hope  [of  being-  a  saint]  into 
my  life.  I  have  done  more  acts  of  self-conquest  in  the  past  eight  months  than 
in  all  the  rest  of  the  twenty  years  I  have  been  in  religion." 


DIRECTOR   OF  OTHERS  177 

with  twenty-four  others,  and  ten  came  by  the  next  post  ! 
No  matter,  since  He  wills  it ;  but  you  will  understand  why 
at  times  I  neglect  you."1  "Ask  Jesus,"  he  says  to  another 
correspondent,  "  to  help  me  with  all  the  letters  I  have  to 
write.  A  big  temptation  came  to  me  some  time  back  that  this 
letter-writing  was  a  huge  waste  of  time  and  no  good  was 
done.  I  could  not  help  feeling  that  the  answer  came  from 
our  Blessed  Lord  Himself  in  the  following  extract  :  '  It  may 
console  you  to  know  that  your  letter  has  been  the  means 
of  saving  me  from  at  least  one  hundred  mortal  sins  since. 
When  these  fierce  temptations  come  upon  me,  I  take  it  out 
and  read  it  over,  and  somehow  it  helps  me  to  fight  the  devil 
and  say,  '  No,  I  will  not  offend  God  again.'  That  has  given 
me  fresh  courage."  Hence  Fr.  Doyle  threw  himself  into  a 
task  which  was  far  from  congenial  to  him  and  which  candid 
critics  did  not  hesitate  to  describe  as  a  wasteful  delusion. 
He  never  shirked  any  toil  or  trouble  once  he  became  con 
vinced  that  it  was  helping  the  interests  of  his  Master.  "  Don't 
be  afraid  of  writing  if  I  can  help  you,"  he  said  to  a  diffident 
religious.  "  But  if  you  want  to  make  me  angry,  apologise 
for  '  giving  me  trouble  '  !  How  could  that  be  called  trouble 
which  helps  you  to  love  our  dearest  Lord  even  one  tiny 
scrap  more  ?  "  To  his  zealous  heart  the  question  seemed 
unanswerable. 

His  voluminous  correspondence  was  concerned  exclusively 
with  spiritual  matters.  For  mere  chat  or  gossip  he  had 
neither  time  nor  inclination.  "  Now  for  a  scolding  !  "  he 
wrote  to  a  well-meaning  news-sender.  "A  good  deal  of  your 
last  letter  consisted  of  '  news.'  I  know  you  meant  kindly, 
but  I  only  want  to  hear  about  your  soul  and  your  progress 
in  perfection,  or  at  least  such  things  as  bear  directly  on  the 
interests  of  God."  His  letters  consist,  therefore,  practically 
altogether  of  personal  advice  and  spiritual  direction.  All 
this  was,  it  is  hardly  necessary  to  say,  written  for  particular 
individuals  in  known  circumstances,  and  was  not  intended 
to  form  a  general  treatise  on  the  spiritual  life.  One  cannot 

i. — One  letter  ends  thus  :  "  God  love  you  !  there  are  rows  of  people  waiting 
for  confession,  and  I  shall  be  eaten."  (April,  1912).  Compare  what  Mgr. 
Baudrillart  says  of  Mgr.  d'Hulst :  "  Correspondence  certainly  added  greatly  to 
the  overloading  of  his  life  ;  he  dreaded  the  postman's  knock." — The  Way  of  the 
Heart:  Letters  of  Direction,  Eng.  trans.  1913,  p.  viii. 
M 


178  FATHER  WILLIAM  DOYLE,   S.J. 

always  generalise  individual  spiritual  guidance,  any  more  than 
one  can  indiscriminately  apply  a  doctor's  prescription.  But 
in  so  far  as  general  principles  are  advocated,  it  seems  useful 
to  collect  some  typical  passages  from  letters  written  by  Fr. 
Doyle,  especially  to  nuns.  Some  such  excerpts  have  been 
already  given,  particularly  in  the  account  of  his  own  inner 
life.  A  further  selection,  roughly  classified  under  convenient 
heads,  will  enable  us  to  appreciate  more  accurately  the  main 
outlines  of  his  spiritual  direction.  This  arrangement  has  the 
advantage  of  letting  Fr.  Doyle  speak  for  himself.  It  is,  of 
course,  obvious  that  a  succession  of  extracts  from  letters 
to  different  correspondents  will  necessarily  include  some 
repetitions,  and  cannot  in  any  sense  be  regarded  as  a  compact 
or  unified  treatment.  At  least  they  will  form  a  little 
anthology  of  counsels  and  thoughts,  among  which  the  reader 
can  pick  and  choose  whatever  seems  appropriate  or  true.1 


(3.)   DISCOURAGEMENT. 


Judging  by  the  frequency  with  which  Fr.  Doyle's  letters 
deal  with  it,  discouragement  must  be  the  besetting  sin  of 
those  who  are  striving  towards  holiness.  Doubtless  some 
times  it  shows  a  secret  pride  and  over-reliance  on  our  own 
unaided  efforts  ;  we  are  quite  surprised  and  hurt  that  we 
did  not  do  better ;  we  are  irritated  by  the  discovery  of  our 
faults,  especially  if  others  share  that  discovery.  Discourage 
ment  such  as  this  is  not  dissipated  by  harsh  sincerity  nor 
excised  by  drastic  spiritual  surgery ;  it  must  be  converted 
into  humble  childlike  trustfulness  in  Christ  who  knows  our 
weakness  and  our  difficulties,  who  sees  them  from  our  side 
and  not  as  human  critics  do.  Another  form  of  discourage 
ment  lies  in  that  natural  human  shrinking  from  struggle 
and  suffering,  such  as  our  Lord  Himself  felt  in  Gethsemane. 


i. — As  far  as  possible  the  date  is  affixed  to  each.     The  few  extracts  dated 
1905  are  from  the  Notes  referred  to  on  p.  26. 


DISCOURAGEMENT  179 

He,  who  chose  three  companions  to  be  near  Him  and  prayed 
for  the  passing  of  the  bitter  chalice,  knows  well  what  it  is 
to  be  sorrowful,  sad  and  fearful  Surely  He  does  not  begrudge 
human  counsel  and  companionship  to  those  who  begin  to 
fear  and  to  be  heavy.  '  The  spirit  indeed  is  willing  but  the 
flesh  is  weak."  (S.  Mark  14.  38.)  Hence  it  is  that  a 
discerning  and  sympathetic  director  can  do  so  much  for  one 
who  is  faithful,  but  discouraged,  acting  as  "an  angel  from 
heaven  strengthening  him."  (S.  Luke  22.  43.)  The  pith 
of  Fr.  Doyle's  advice  can  be  put  in  these  two  short  sentences 
of  his  :  "  When  you  commit  a  fault  which  humbles  you 
and  for  which  you  are  really  sorry,  it  is  a  gain  instead  of 
a  loss."  "  Recognize  God's  graces  to  you,  and  instead  of 
thinking  of  yourself  and  your  faults,  try  to  do  all  you  can 
for  God  and  love  Him  more."  Here  are  some  further  excerpts 
from  his  letters. 


(A).  "  There  is  one  fault  in  religious  which  should  not 
be  forgiven  either  in  this  world  or  in  the  world  to  come, 
and  that  is  discouragement ;  for  it  means  we  are  playing 
the  devil's  game  for  him — his  pet  walking  stick,  someone 
has  called  it.  Thank  God,  we  have  not  to  judge  ourselves, 
for,  as  St.  Ignatius  wisely  remarks,  no  one  is  a  judge  in  his 
own  case.  Let  me  judge  you,  my  child,  as  I  honestly  think 
God  judges  you.  My  verdict  must  be  that  you  have  grown 
immensely  in  holiness  during  the  past  few  years.  To  begin 
with,  every  particle  of  merit — and  there  must  be  millions 
of  them  since  you  first  entered  religion — is  waiting  for  you 
in  heaven,  for  no  amount  of  infidelity  or  venial  sin  can  ever 
diminish  that  by  one  iota.  Then,  in  spite  of  your  sufferings 
and  weak  health,  you  have  worked  on  and  struggled  on  from 
day  to  day — a  life  which  must  have  pleased  God  immensely. 
Don't  lose  heart,  my  dear  child,  the  darkness  you  feel  is 
not  a  sign  of  God's  displeasure,  for  every  saint  has  gone 
through  it.  You  are  '  minting  money '  every  instant  you 
live,  you  are  helping  to  save  soul  after  soul  each  hour  you 
suffer.  So  you  should  say  with  St.  Paul,  (2  Cor.  7.  4)  : 
'  I  exceedingly  abound  with  joy  in  all  our  tribulation.'  " 
(July,  1913.) 


i8o  FATHER  WILLIAM   DOYLE,   SJ. 

(B).  "  You  seem  to  have  been  going  through  a  harder 
time  than  usual  lately,  and  this  evidently  has  come  as  a 
surprise  to  you.  But  is  it  not  the  best  of  signs  that  all  is 
well,  that  God  has  accepted  your  generous  offer  to  bear  all 
He  wishes  to  send  you,  and  that  the  devil  is  furious  and 
alarmed  at  the  progress  you  have  made  in  perfection  and 
mad  at  the  harm  you  have  done  to  his  evil  cause  ?  The 
storm  has  come  upon  you,  and  you,  foolish  child  as  you 
always  were,  have  thought  all  is  lost  because  you  have  bent 
a  little  like  the  reed  before  the  wind.  No,  the  want  of 
courage,  firmness  and  generosity  will  only  serve  to  tumble 
and  throw  you  the  more  confidently  into  the  strengthening 
arms  of  our  dear  Lord,  since  it  makes  you  see  that  without 
Him  you  can  do  nothing. 

"  God  always  seems  to  permit  this  to  happen  even  to  His 
saints.  I  read  recently  in  the  life  of  a  holy  soul  who  had 
promised  to  give  our  Lord  all :  '  Three  times  to-day 
I  deliberately  avoided  a  humiliation  and  a  little  act  of  self- 
denial."  Hurrah,  boys  !  I  say  ;  if  the  saints  act  like  that, 
there  is  some  hope  for  you  and  me.  If  there  has  been  any 
falling  off  in  your  generous  resolution,  go  back  humbly  to 
the  feet  of  Jesus  now  and  take  up  bravely  the  cross  which 
means  so  much  for  His  glory  and  your  happiness." 
(December,  1912.) 

(C).  "  In  spite  of  all  our  efforts,  we  fall  into  faults  from 
time  to  time.  God  permits  this  for  two  reasons  :  (i)  to  keep 
the  soul  humble  and  to  make  it  realise  its  utter  powerlessness 
when  left  alone  without  His  fostering  hand,  and  (2)  because 
the  act  of  sorrow  after  the  fault  not  only  washes  it  com 
pletely  away,  but  immensely  increases  our  merit,  and  being 
an  act  of  humility  bringing  us  really  heartbroken  to  His 
feet,  delights  Him  beyond  measure."  (April,  1913.) 

(D).  "  Our  Lord  is  displeased  only  when  He  sees  no  attempt 
made  to  get  rid  of  imperfections  which,  when  deliberate, 
clog  the  soul  and  chain  it  to  the  earth.  But  He  often  pur 
posely  does  not  give  the  victory  over  them  in  order  to  increase 
our  opportunities  of  meriting.  Make  an  act  of  humility  and 
sorrow  after  failure,  and  then  never  a  thought  more 
about  it. 


DISCOURAGEMENT  181 

"  He  sees  what  a  '  tiny  little  child  '  you  are,  and  how 
useless  even  your  greatest  efforts  are  to  accomplish  the 
gigantic  work  of  making  a  saint.  But  this  longing,  this 
stretching  out  of  baby  hands  for  His  love,  pleases  Him  beyond 
measure  ;  and  one  day  He  will  stoop  down  and  catch  you 
up  with  infinite  tenderness  in  His  divine  arms  and  raise 
you  to  heights  of  sanctity  you  little  dream  of  now." 
(May,  1913.) 

(E).  "  You  need  not  be  uneasy  to  see  in  your  soul  apparent 
contradictions  :  an  ardent  desire  to  love  God  and  to  suffer 
for  Him,  and  then  when  the  opportunity  comes,  a  shrinking 
from  pain,  and  even  a  refusal  to  bear  it.  Fortunately  we 
are  dealing  with  our  Lord  who  can  read  the  heart  and  who 
knows  our  protestations  of  love  are  sincere  and  genuine, 
with  One,  too,  who  knows  the  weakness  of  our  human  nature 
and  who  does  not  expect  much  from  us.  He  does  not  forget 
His  own  human  weakness  on  earth.  '  With  desire  have  I 
desired  to  eat  this  Pasch  with  you  before  I  suffer,'  He  said 
showing  His  longing  for  His  Passion.  And  then  an  hour 
after  He  seems  to  take  His  offering  back  :  '  Father,  if  it 
be  possible,  let  this  chalice  pass  from  Me.'  The  very  longing 
to  love  Him  and  bear  much  for  His  sake  is  dear  to  our  Lord, 
even  if  our  courage  fails  when  tested."  (June,  1913.) 

(F).  "  Our  dear  Lord  is  certainly  testing  the  extent  of 
your  love  for  Him  before  He  takes  you  to  Himself.  But 
should  not  that  make  you  rejoice,  my  dear  child,  since  the 
harder  and  sharper  the  fight,  the  closer  will  be  your  union 
with  Him  in  heaven  ?  I  have  just  one  fault  to  blame  you 
for  :  you  have  always  kept  your  eyes  fixed  on  your  faults — 
I  do  not  deny  there  are  plenty  ! — and  have  never  helped 
yourself  by  thinking  on  what  you  have  done  and  suffered 
for  His  dear  sake.  If  you  have  forgotten  all  this,  He  has 
not ;  and  when  you  meet  Him,  the  gratitude  of  His  loving 
Heart  will  hide  the  imperfections  and  faults  of  former  years. 
Be  brave  and  generous  to  the  end,  my  dear  child,  and  do 
not  take  back  what  He  asks  you  to  give,  though  He  knew 
well  what  it  would  cost  you."  (August,  1912.) 

(G).  "  I  think  there  is  no  harder  trial  in  the  spiritual  life 
than  the  one  you  speak  of.  One  feels  so  weary  of  it  all, 


182  FATHER  WILLIAM  DOYLE,   SJ. 

fighting  and  struggling  against  things  which  seem  so  small 
and  mean,  and  where  there  is  apparently  so  little  merit  to 
be  gained,  and  then  comes  the  longing  to  throw  it  all  up 
and  be  content  with  just  doing  the  bare  necessary  to  save 
one's  soul.  You  must  have  great  patience  with  yourself,  my 
dear  child,  and  not  expect  to  get  into  a  region  of  perfect 
peace  where  there  would  be  no  trials  or  worries  or  fighting 
against  self — even  the  saints  did  not  enjoy  that  calm. 
Remember,  God  sees  the  intention,  which  in  your  case  is 
generous  and  unreserved.  He  is  quite  pleased  with  that, 
and  only  smiles  when  He  sees  us  failing  in  our  resolve  and 
determination  to  be  perfect.  To  console  you,  here  is  the 
confession  of  the  great  S.  Teresa  (Life  30. 15)  :  '  The  devil  sends 
me  so  offensive  a  spirit  of  bad  temper  that  at  times  I  think  I 
could  eat  people  up.'  She  was  canonised,  so  there  is  some 
hope  of  salvation  for  us  yet."  (March,  1912.) 

(H).  "  Are  you  not  foolish  in  wishing  to  be  free  from 
these  attacks  of  impatience,  etc.  ?  I  know  how  violent 
they  can  be,  since  they  sweep  down  on  me  at  all  hours  without 
any  provocation.  You  forget  the  many  victories  they  furnish 
you  with,  the  hours  perhaps  of  hard  fighting,  and  only  fix 
your  eyes  on  the  little  tiny  word  of  anger,  or  the  small  fault, 
which  is  gone  with  one  '  Jesus  forgive  me.'  '  (April,  1912.) 

(I).  "I  fear  you  are  allowing  the  devil  to  score  off  you 
by  getting  so  much  upset  over  these  bothersome,  but  harm 
less,  temptations.  You  must  let  our  Lord  sanctify  you  in 
His  own  way.  Were  we  to  pick  our  own  trials  and  modes 
of  sanctification,  we  should  soon  make  a  mess  of  things. 
The  net  result  of  your  temptations  is  a  deeper  humility,  a 
sense  of  your  own  weakness  and  wretchedness,  and  is  not 
this  all  gain  ?  '  My  brethren,  count  it  all  joy,  when  you 
shall  fall  into  divers  temptations,'  says  St.  James  (i.  2). 
All  I  ask  you  to  do  is  to  try  to  crush  down  the  first  movements 
of  temptation,  which  perhaps  can  best  be  done  by  praying 
that  others  may  be  more  favoured  or  esteemed  than  you 
There  is  a  danger  you  may  not  suspect  in  thinking  and 
grieving  too  much  over  temptation  and  faults.  First  of  all 
there  is  oftentimes  a  secret  pride  hidden  in  our  grief  and 
anger  with  ourselves  for  not  being  as  perfect  as  we  thought 


DISCOURAGEMENT  183 

or  as  others  thought.  Then  this  worrying  over  what 
cannot  well  be  avoided  distracts  the  soul  from  God.  After 
all  what  God  wants  from  you,  my  child,  is  love,  and  nothing 
should  distract  you  from  the  grand  work  of  love-giving. 
Hence  when  you  fail,  treat  our  Blessed  Lord  like  a  loving 
little  child,  tell  Him  you  are  sorry,  kiss  His  feet  as  a  token 
of  your  regret,  and  then  forget  all  about  your  naughtiness." 

(J).  "I  hope  by  the  time  you  receive  this  you  will  have 
realised  how  foolish  it  is  of  you  to  bother  about  anything — 
no  matter  what  it  may  be — in  your  past  confessions. 
Generously  make  the  sacrifice  of  never  thinking  or  speaking 
of  them  again.  You  may  do  so  with  an  easy  conscience 
when  you  act  under  obedience.  God  wants  to  have  your 
soul  in  a  state  of  perfect  peace  and  calm,  for  only  then  will 
He  be  able  to  fill  it  with  His  love  and  dwell  there 
undisturbed."  (May,  1912.) 

(K).  "Desolation  is  not  a  punishment  for  past  infidelity, 
but  a  special  grace  reserved  for  the  few.  The  only  danger 
comes  from  the  temptation  of  the  devil,  that  God  has 
abandoned  you  and  that  it  would  be  better  to  chuck  it  all 
up.  He  will  beat  you  in  the  fight  at  times,  making  you 
weary  of  this  never-ending  war  against  self  and  forcing  you 
to  yield  to  nature.  But  no  harm  is  done  provided  you 
start  again." 

(L).  "  St.  Vincent  de  Paul  used  to  say  :  '  One  of  the  most 
certain  marks  that  God  has  great  designs  upon  a  soul  is 
when  He  sends  desolation  upon  desolation,  suffering  upon 
suffering.'  Do  you  doubt  for  a  moment  that  God  has  not 
great  designs  upon  your  soul  ?  The  clear  and  consoling 
proof  is  in  the  terrible  trial  you  are  going  through.  Do  not 
let  the  assaults  of  the  enemy  disturb  you.  He  is  showing 
his  hand  by  this  last  storm  and  his  fierce  fury  that  you  did 
not  yield  in  the  direction  that  he  wanted.  Treat  his 
suggestions  with  silent  contempt,  simply  lifting  your  heart 
to  God  now  and  again,  but  above  all  not  trying  to  drive 
these  thoughts  away,  nor  being  fearful  of  giving  any  consent 
even  though  you  may  seem  to  do  so  under  the  violence  of 
the  attack.  Keep  your  will  firm,  and  do  not  trouble  about 
feelings  and  desires. 


184  FATHER   WILLIAM   DOYLE,   SJ. 

"  I  do  not  think  your  '  false  humility  '  is  pleasing  to  God, 
though  I  do  not  suggest  for  a  moment  that  you  are  putting 
it  on.  Drop  self  and  all  thought  of  reparation  out  of  your 
life,  and  work  now  only  for  Him  and  the  salvation  of  souls. 
If  an  aspiration,  on  the  authority  of  the  B.  Cure  d'  Ars, 
often  saved  a  soul,  what  must  you  not  do  each  day  you 
suffer  so  bravely  !  This  thought  certainly  will  help  you  and 
make  the  pain  almost  nothing,  and  will  add  to  its  merit, 
since  the  motive  for  bearing  it  will  be  all  the  higher."  (1913.) 

(M).  "  I  noticed  a  tone  of  despondency  in  your  letter,  a 
yielding  to  that  commonest  of  all  the  evil  suggestions  of 
the  tempter,  Cui  bono  ?  What  is  the  use  of  all  this  struggling 
without  any  result,  and  so  much  prayer  followed  by  no 
apparent  improvement  ?  It  is  a  clever  temptation,  and  a 
successful  one  with  most  souls,  resulting  in  the  giving  up 
of  the  very  things  which  are  slowly  but  surely  making  them 
saints.  If  only  one  could  grasp  this  fact :  Every  tiny  thing 
(aspiration,  self-denial,  etc.,)  makes  us  holier  than  we  were. 
Just  think  of  the  thousand  of  tiny  things  done  each  day 
for  God,  e.g.  each  step  we  take ;  all  is  done  for  Him,  every  one 
of  them  has  added  to  our  merit,  making  us  more  pleasing 
in  His  sight,  and  each  moment  holier.  No  one  can  see  this 
gradual  spiritual  growth,  though  sometimes  when  we  have 
gained  a  big  victory,  such  as  the  secret  one  you  won  recently 
over  yourself,  we  wonder  where  the  strength  came  from  to 
do  it.  I  have  watched  your  steady  progress  in  perfection 
with  the  greatest  joy  and  gratitude  for  your  generosity, 
and  so  I  want  to  warn  you  not  to  listen  to  such  a  suggestion 
that  your  efforts  have  been  in  vain.  Your  biggest  fault  at 
present,  my  child,  is  that  you  have  not  yet  completely  bent 
your  will  to  God's  designs.  I  think  it  would  please  Him 
immensely  to  have  no  wishes  of  our  own,  apart  from  holy 
ones,  so  that  He  could  bend  and  twist  and  fashion  us  just 
as  He  pleases,  knowing  well  that  we  will  not  even  murmur. 
Remember  this  does  not  mean  that  our  feelings  will  die 
also."  (January,  1916.) 

(N).  "  Surely,  my  child,  you  are  not  surprised  to  find 
that  you  have  broken  your  resolution,  or  rather,  that  the 
devil  has  gained  a  victory  over  you.  I  am  convinced  from 


DISCOURAGEMENT  185 

a  pretty  big  experience  that  perfection,  that  is  sanctity,  is 
only  to  be  won  by  repeated  failures.  If  you  rise  again  after 
a  fall,  sorry  for  the  pain  given  our  Lord,  humbled  by  it, 
since  you  see  better  your  real  weakness,  and  determined  to 
make  another  start,  far  more  is  gained  than  if  you  had  gone 
on  without  a  stumble.  Besides,  to  expect  to  keep  any 
resolution,  till  repeated  acts  have  made  it  solid  in  the  soul, 
is  like  one  expecting  to  learn  skating,  for  example,  without 
ever  falling.  The  more  falls,  the  better  (that  is  if  you  do 
not  mind  bumps),  for  every  fall  means  that  we  have  begun 
again,  have  made  another  effort  and  so  have  made  progress. 
I  mention  this  because  I  know  that  you — like  myself1 — are 
given  to  discouragement  and  tempted  to  give  up  all  when 
failure  comes."  (July,  1915.) 

(O).  "  You  seem  to  be  suffering,  my  dear  child,  from  a 
very  common  religious  malady — discouragement  and  want 
of  patience  with  yourself,  looking  for  and  expecting  to  see 
great  results  from  your  efforts  to  become  holier.  You  forget 
what  a  clog  the  body  is  on  the  soul,  and  how  in  spite  of  the 
most  generous  intentions  and  determination,  it  prevents  us, 
time  after  time,  from  carrying  out  our  plans.  You  remember 
St.  Paul's  bitter  complaint  that  the  good  he  wished  to  do 
he  did  not  :  '  I  am  delighted  with  the  law  of  God,  but  I 
see  another  law  in  my  members,  fighting  against  the  law 
of  my  mind  and  captivating  me  in  the  law  of  sin.'  This  is 
the  experience  of  all  who  are  striving  to  serve  God  well. 
They  cannot  always  do  what  they  would  like  and  what 
they  know  He  asks  of  them,  but  in  the  end  the  grace  of 
God — S.  Paul's  remedy — will  bring  the  victory,  if  only  we 
persevere.  Another  consolation  is  that  our  Lord  is  often 
as  much  pleased  (more,  S.  Teresa  says)  by  our  good  intentions 
and  desires  than  by  their  execution.  The  good  desire,  the 

i. — Compare  this  entry  in  his  diary  (ayth  June,  1915)  made  just  a  month 
previously  :  "  I  am  writing  in  great  desolation  and  sadness,  tempted  even  to 
abandon  my  vocation  and  plunge  headlong  into  sin.  All  this  is  the  result  of 
having  given  in  to  myself,  broken  my  resolutions  and  indulged  myself  in  every 
way.  Oh,  my  God,  what  am  I  to  do?  I  made  a  fresh  start  with  great  generosity 
and  determination,  and  in  three  days  was  worse  than  ever.  I  see  my  deadly 
enemy  is  my  weak  character  and  inconstant  will,  which  I  have  made  worse  by 
years  of  yielding  to  it.  My  Jesus,  I  am  humbled  and  crushed.  Is  there  any 
use  trying  more  ?  Every  effort  means  a  new  failure  and  disappointment  to  You  ; 
and  still  I  feel  You  urging  me  on  to  nobler  things,  to  begin  again."  The  very 
exaggeration  of  the  language  is  a  measure  of  the  despondency. 


i86  FATHER  WILLIAM   DOYLE,   S.J. 

longing  and  wish  to  be  perfect,  is  strong  in  you,  and  as  long 
as  that  remains  you  need  never  fear  displeasing  God. 
Besides  you  have  a  tremendous  lever  of  sanctification  in  the 
power  of  love  that  enables  us  to  do  things,  especially  what 
costs  us  an  effort,  for  our  Lord's  dear  sake.  Mind,  this 
does  not  mean  feeling,  sensible  affection,  but  simply  a  dry 
act  of  the  will,  intending  to  make  the  sacrifice  or  action  an 
act  of  pure  love.  '  My  God,  I  do  this  for  the  love  of  You, 
and  for  no  one  else  in  the  world  would  I  do  it.'  Try  this 
in  easy  things,  and  occasionally  make  a  dive  at  a  really  big 
sacrifice  which  costs,  for  love  means  sacrifice,  and  sacrifice 
leads  infallibly  to  love."  (October,  1913.) 

(P).  "  Will  it  be  any  help  to  you  to  learn  that  I  know 
many  who  suffer  as  you  do  ?  Hence  I  can  perfectly  under 
stand  what  you  are  going  through  ;  the  disgust  for  everything 
spiritual,  the  almost  hatred  of  God,  and  the  mad  longing 
almost  to  leave  it  all  behind  and  run  away.  However  we 
know  that  such  a  step  would  not  end  the  trouble  or  bring 
relief  in  any  form,  on  the  contrary,  that  would  simply  mean 
playing  into  the  devil's  hands  and  could  only  lead  to  one 
thing  in  the  end.  We  know  also  that  these  trials  come  from 
God  and  that  if  one  is  only  patient,  they  will  pass.  Hence, 
my  dear  child,  you  must  set  your  teeth  and  hold  on  ;  spiritual 
life,  remember,  is  a  warfare  and  you  will  surely  not  run  away 
when  the  real  attack  comes,  but  rather  boldly  face  the 
enemy."  (August,  1915.) 

(Q).  "  Surely  you  are  not  right  in  trying  to  keep  our 
Lord  away  from  you,  or  in  thinking  that  He  looks  upon  you 
with  dispeasure.  When  sin  in  the  past  is  repented  for,  the 
poor  soul  who  once  strayed  from  Him  has  a  strange  attraction 
for  His  gentle  Heart.  You  pain  Him  intensely  if  you  think 
He  does  not  love  you  now,  nor  wish  for  your  affection.  Give 
Him  all  you  can,  warmly  and  naturally,  like  a  little  child, 
and  rest  assured  that  the  one  longing  of  His  Heart  is  to  see 
you  advance  rapidly  in  holiness  and  perfection.  You  must 
try  and  cultivate  great  confidence  and  trust  in  our  dear 
Lord's  love  and  mercy,  driving  far  from  you  sadness  and 
regret  of  all  kinds.  Give  it  no  quarter,  it  is  all  from  the 
devil  and  so  most  harmful."  (August,  1913.) 


UNION   AND   ABANDONMENT  187 


(4.)  UNION  AND  ABANDONMENT. 

i. 

With  equal  soundness  of  spirituality  and  accuracy  of 
insight,  Fr.  Doyle  counselled  the  elimination  of  anxieties, 
distractions  and  worries,  not  so  much  by  direct  counter 
attack  and  detailed  defence  as  by  the  energizing  power  of 
a  great  ideal.  Just  as  a  magnet  attracts  and  orientates  a 
confused  mass  of  iron  filings,  marshalling  and  linking  them 
harmoniously,  so  an  all-embracing  ideal  will  influence  and 
direct  all  our  powers  and  activities.  See  God  everywhere, 
he  said  in  effect ;  He  is  behind  every  event,  even  what  men 
miscall  accidents  ;  desolation  is  but  the  shade  of  His  hand 
outstretched  caressingly  ;  gladness  is  the  sunshine  of  His 
presence.  Above  all,  He  is  within  our  souls,  often 
sacramentally,  always  by  His  immanent  indwelling ;  He 
thinks  with  us,  He  shares  our  very  consciousness  as  no  other 
being  can.  With  the  growing  realization  of  this  union  with 
God  within  us  and  abandonment  to  God's  acting  on  us  from 
without,  life  will  become  easier  and  happier  ;  all  our  piece 
meal  striving  and  individual  troubles  will  gradually  coalesce 
into  one  lifelong  continuous  act  of  conformity  to  God's 
will.  "  Abandon  yourself  completely  into  the  hands  of  God 
and  take  directly  from  Him  every  event  of  life,  agreeable 
or  disagreeable  ;  only  then  can  God  make  you  really  holy." 
"  Holiness,"  he  wrote  elsewhere,  "  is  really  nothing  more 
than  perfect  conformity  to  God's  will."  "  This  worrying 
over  what  cannot  well  be  avoided,"  he  said  in  a  letter  already 
cited,  "  distracts  the  soul  from  God  ;  after  all,  what  God 
wants  from  you  is  love,  and  nothing  should  distract  you 
from  the  grand  work  of  love-giving."  Distractions  are  to 
be  conquered  by  one  overmastering  attraction ;  a  strong 
man  will  be  conquered  and  dispossessed  only  if  a  stronger 
than  he  come  upon  him.  Thus,  as  Fr.  Doyle  advocated  it, 
this  ideal  of  conformity  consisted  in  no  mere  negative 
quiescence  or  patient  resignation1 ;  it  was  a  positive  active 

I. — "This  is  not  to  be  a  kind  of  resigned,  or  perhaps  rebellious,  conformity, 
but  a  generous  cheerful  (though  not  felt)  embracing  of  what  He  wills."- 
(October,  1916.) 


i88  FATHER   WILLIAM   DOYLE,   SJ. 

amalgamation  of  the  human  will  with  God's,  culminating 
logically  in  that  perfect  act  of  immolation  which  was  the 
keynote  of  his  own  holiness.  All  this,  be  it  noted,  was  no 
mere  scheme  of  destructive  will-crushing  or  punitive 
repression,  it  was  designed  as  a  constructive  expansion  of 
the  will,  a  joyous  chivalrous  uplifting  of  the  soul.1  The 
heart  was  not  to  be  left  swept  and  garnished,  ready  for  seven 
other  spirits  more  wicked  than  the  unclean  spirit  already 
driven  out.  True  abandonment  was  to  be  consummated 
only  by  union.2  "  He  that  loveth  Me  shall  be  loved  of  My 
Father  ;  and  I  will  love  him  and  will  manifest  Myself  to 
him.  .  .  .  And  We  will  come  to  him  and  will  make 
Our  abode  with  him."  (5.  John  14.  21.) 

(A).  "  I  want  you  to  make  a  greater  effort  to  see  the  hand 
of  God  in  everything  that  happens,  and  then  to  force  or  train 
yourself  to  rejoice  in  His  holy  will.  For  example,  you  want 
a  fine  day  for  some  reason  and  it  turns  out  wet.  Don't 
say,  '  Oh,  hang  it  !  ',  but  give  our  Lord  a  loving  smile  and 
say  :  '  Thank  You,  my  God,  for  this  disappointment.'  This 
will  help  you  to  keep  down  impatience,  irritability,  etc., 
when  people  annoy  you.  Then  when  some  hard  trial  is 
past,  look  back  on  it,  see  how  you  ought  to  have  taken  it, 
and  resolve  to  act  that  way  in  future."  (March,  1915.) 

(B).  "  Try  to  draw  closer  each  day  the  bonds  of  union 
with  Him,  thinking  often  of  His  dwelling  within  your  soul, 
and  so  making  your  heart  beat  in  union  with  His  ;  that  is, 
seeking  and  wishing  for  only  His  adorable  will  in  all  things, 
even  the  smallest.  This  will  conquer  all  worries,  for  nothing 
which  comes  from  the  loving  hand  of  God  can  ever  be  a 
worry  to  us."  (March,  1913.) 

(C).  Your  difficulty  is  merely  God's  plan  for  your 
sanctification.  '  My  child,  let  Me  do  with  you  what  I  will.' 

i. — Fr.  Doyle  advocated  as  an  important  part  of  this  conformity  that  docility 
to  the  inspirations  of  the  Holy  Spirit,  which  was  so  conspicuous  in  his  own  life. — 
See  p.  95. 

2. — "The  state  of  divine  union  consists  in  the  total  transformation  of  the  will 
into  the  will  of  God,  so  that  every  movement  of  the  will  shall  be  always  the 
movement  of  the  will  of  God  only." — S.  John  of  the  Cross,  Ascent  of  Mount 
Carmel  \.  11,3.  So  Teresa,  Foundations  v.  10. 


UNION   AND   ABANDONMENT  189 

This  is  hard  to  submit  to,  especially  when  our  Lord  hides 
Himself  in  the  background  and  uses  other  instruments  to 
do  His  work  on  us.  Never  mind,  my  dear  child,  you  are 
making  undoubted  progress.  Jesus  may  hide  it  from  your 
eyes,  but  He  does  not  hide  it  from  mine.  I  do  not  trouble 
in  the  least  about  your  little  faults  and  failings  which  will 
vanish  as  you  become  more  perfect  and  grow  more  in  the 
love  of  what  is  hard  to  nature.  For  your  consolation 
remember  that  everyone  I  have  ever  met  found  the  struggle 
for  perfection  hard  because  most  of  the  work  is  done  in  the 
dark.  It  is  a  question  of  faith  and  courage,  going  along 
bravely  day  after  day,  gathering  up  a  sacrifice  here  and  there, 
and  although  many  are  let  slip,  every  one  we  lay  at  the  feet 
of  our  Lord  means  so  much  solid  progress." 

(D).  "  May  our  dear  Lord  help  you  to  bear  the  cross  His 
love  has  sent  you.  Try  to  keep  this  one  thought  before 
you  all  through  your  trial :  This  is  God's  doing.  Hence 
do  not  indulge  in  useless  regrets  about  want  of  care,  etc. 
Even  if  there  was  negligence,  God  permitted  it  to  give  you 
this  golden  chance  of  being  brave  and  generous  under  the 
cross.  What  has  happened  will  bring  you  much  grace  and 
even  happiness,  if  you  take  it  in  the  right  way.  '  Let  Him 
act/  must  be  your  motto.  Jesus  will  bring  all  things  right 
in  the  end.  The  more  I  get  to  know  God,  the  more  inclined 
I  feel  to  let  Him  work  out  things  in  His  own  way  and  time, 
and  to  go  on  peacefully  not  troubling  about  anything.  This 
cross  is  a  sign  of  God's  love  for  you,  and  the  surest  way  of 
increasing  your  love  for  Him.  Though  you  indeed  try  to 
take  courageously  the  crosses  God  sends  you,  still  there 
seems  to  be  a  want  of  that  complete  submission  to  God's 
wishes  that  He  looks  for  and  longs  for  in  every  detail  of 
your  life.  Endeavour  still  more  to  give  Him  the  desire  of 
His  Heart." 

(E).  "I  have  been  praying  earnestly  to  know  what  our 
Lord  wants  from  you  during  this  year,  and  if  I  mistake  not, 
this  is  His  message  to  you.  He  wants  a  very  close  union 
with  Him  which  you  will  try  to  effect  in  this  way.  Each 
morning  at  Holy  Communion  invite  Jesus,  with  all  the  love 
and  fervour  you  can,  to  enter  into  your  heart  and  dwell 


190  FATHER   WILLIAM   DOYLE,   SJ. 

there  during  the  day  as  in  a  tabernacle,  making  of  your 
heart  a  living  tabernacle  which  will  be  very  dear  to 
Him.  .  .  .  This  union  will  be  impossible  without  com 
plete  abandonment  to  God's  pleasure  in  all  the  little  worries 
of  your  life.  Do  whatever  you  think  is  most  for  His  glory 
.  .  .  and  then  calmly  watch  Him  upset  all  and  apparently 
bless  your  efforts  with  failure,  and  even  sins  on  the  part 
of  others.  I  have  long  had  the  feeling  that  your  over-anxiety 
to  keep  things  right  or  prevent  uncharitableness  which  has 
caused  you  a  good  deal  of  worry,  is  not  pleasing  to  God 
and  prevents  Him  from  drawing  you  closer  in  His  love. 
Non  in  commotione  Dominus}  Labour,  then,  with  might 
and  main  to  keep  your  soul  in  peace,  put  an  unbounded 
trust  in  His  loving  goodness.  If  you  live  in  Jesus  and  Jesus 
in  you,  striving  to  make  each  little  action,  each  morsel  of 
food,  every  word  of  the  Office,  etc.,  an  act  of  love  to  be  laid 
at  His  feet  as  dwelling  in  your  heart,  you  will  certainly  please 
Him  immensely  and  fly  to  perfection."  (January,  1912.) 

(F).  "  This  morning  during  Mass  I  felt  strongly  that 
Jesus  was  pained  that  you  do  not  trust  Him  absolutely, 
that  is  trust  Him  in  every  detail  of  your  life.  You  are 
wanting  in  that  childlike  confidence  He  desires  so  much 
from  you,  the  taking  lovingly  and  trustfully  from  His  hands 
all  that  He  sends  you,  not  even  wishing  things  to  have 
happened  otherwise.  He  wants  you  to  possess  your  soul  in 
peace  in  the  midst  of  the  many  troubles,  cares  and  difficulties 
of  your  work,  looking  upon  everything  as  arranged  by  Him, 
and  hence  something  to  welcome  joyfully.  Jesus  will  not 
dwell  in  your  soul  as  He  wishes  unless  you  are  at  peace. 
This  is  the  first  step  towards  that  union  which  you  desire 
so  much — but  not  so  much  as  He  does.  Don't  keep  Him 
waiting,  my  child,  but  by  earnest  and  constant  efforts  empty 
your  heart  of  every  care  that  He  may  abide  with  you  for 
ever."  (May,  1913.) 

(G).  "  We  do  not  mind  what  God  does  with  us  so  long  as 
it  more  or  less  fits  in  with  our  own  wishes,  but  when  His 
will  clashes  with  ours,  we  begin  to  see  the  difficulty  of  the 
prayer,  '  Not  my  will,  but  Thine  be  done.'  All  the  same 

i. — "The  Lord  is  not  in  the  earthquake." — III.  Kings  19,  11. 


UNION   AND   ABANDONMENT  191 

I  think  we  can  never  expect  really  to  please  God  till  we 
become  like  wax  in  His  hands,  so  that  He  will  never  have 
to  hesitate  before  sending  a  cross  or  trial  no  matter  how 
hard."  (April,  1913.) 

(H).  "As  regards  this  union  with  our  Lord,  it  is  really 
nothing  more  than  a  blending  of  our  will  with  His,  in  such 
a  way  that  we  wish  only  what  He  wishes,  and  as  far  as 
possible  only  think  of  and  interest  ourselves  in  those  things 
that  are  His. 

"  I  would  urge  you  to  avoid  worry  and  anxiety  which 
always  show  that  self  is  still  strong  and  that  the  human 
will  is  not  completely  dead. 

"  In  the  matter  of  suffering  I  think  you  are  inclined  to 
confound  the  act  of  the  will  with  feeling.  You  do  not  really 
'  draw  back  '  when  suffering  comes,  since  you  have  the  will 
to  bear  all  things  for  the  love  of  Jesus  ;  but  nature  shrinks 
from  pain  and  at  times  makes  our  '  will  to  suffer  '  give  way. 

"  To-day  at  Exposition  I  asked  our  Lord  to  let  me  know 
what  He  wished  you  to  correct  especially  during  your  retreat. 
It  seems  to  me,  my  child,  that  most  of  your  faults  come 
from  a  want  of  perfect  abandonment  to  the  will  of  God. 
For  example,  when  you  get  annoyed  with  people  and  speak 
sharply,  you  lose  sight  of  God's  directing  hand,  which 
prompted  or  allowed  people  to  act  in  this  way.  God's  will 
is  constantly  clashing  with  ours,  and  unless  a  soul  is  perfectly 
submissive,  interior  peace  is  disturbed  or  lost.  True 
abandonment  means  crushing  out  self  and  welcoming  with 
sweetness  and  joy  all  God  sends." 

(I).  "  Try  to  grasp  the  fact — -a  very  hard  thing  to  do — 
that  in  the  spiritual  life  '  feelings  '  count  for  nothing,  that 
they  are  no  indication  of  our  real  state  ;  generally  speaking 
they  are  just  the  opposite.  ,  .  .  You  are  perfectly  right 
when  you  say  that  the  first  thing  to  do  is  '  to  give  up  your 
own  will.'  Why  not  aim  at  making  God's  will  alone  yours 
in  every  detail  of  life,  so  that  you  would  never  desire  or  wish 
for  anything  except  what  He  willed,  and  look  on  every 
detail  as  coming  from  His  hand,  as  it  does  ?  Such  a  one  is 
never  '  put  out '  by  anything — bad  weather,  unpleasant 
work,  annoying  incidents,  they  are  all  His  doing  and  His 


I92  FATHER  WILLIAM   DOYLE,   SJ. 

sweet    will.      Try    it,    though    it    means    high    perfection." 
(October,  1916.) 

(J).  "  Do  nothing  without  consulting  Him  in  the  Taber 
nacle.  But  then  act  fearlessly,  if  you  see  it  is  for  His  honour 
and  glory,  never  minding  what  others  may  think  or  say. 
Above  all,  "  cast  your  care  upon  the  Lord  and  He  shall 
sustain  you."  (Psalm  54.  23.)  Peace  and  calm  in  your 
soul,  prayer  ever  on  your  lips,  and  a  big  love  in  your  heart 
for  Him  and  His  interests,  will  carry  you  very  far." 

(K).  "  You  know  well  that  even  the  smallest  cross  and 
happening  of  your  life  is  part  of  our  Blessed  Lord's  plan 
for  your  sanctification.  It  is  not  easy,  I  know,  to  look  at 
things  in  this  light.  But  one  can  train  the  will  to  look  upon 
the  acts  of  others,  even  their  sinful  acts  in  as  much  as  they 
concern  ourselves,  as  coming  from  the  hand  of  God.  There 
is  so  much  real  holiness  and  so  very  much  solid  happiness 
and  peace  and  contentment  in  this  little  principle,  that  I 
am  very  anxious  you  should  try  and  acquire  it,  so  that 
nothing  may  really  ruffle  the  peace  of  your  soul.  Don't 
think  this  is  easy,  it  is  not ;  and  you  will  fail  time  after 
time  in  your  efforts,  but  with  perseverance,  steady  progress 
will  be.  made."  (November,  1914.) 

(L).  "A  quiet  hidden  life  is  not  possible  for  you  in  one 
way,  and  yet  perfectly  so  in  another — by  building  a  solitude 
in  your  heart  where  you  can  ever  live  alone  with  Jesus,  letting 
the  noise  and  worry  of  life,  cares  and  anxieties  of  the  world, 
pass  over  your  head  like  a  storm,  which  will  never  ruffle 
the  peace  of  your  soul.  You  will  enjoy  perfect  calm  and 
peace  of  soul,  the  requisite  condition  for  a  life  of  union,  by 
keeping  Jesus  ever  with  you  as  a  Friend,  and  remembering 
that  everything  happens  by  His  permission  and  is  in  fact 
His  work.  Let  this  principle  soak  in  and  it  will  make  you 
a  saint.  Apply  it  to  every  detail  of  your  life,  and  you  will 
not  be  far  from  what  you  seek  ;  in  fact  humiliations,  slights, 
annoyances,  worries  will  all  disappear,  since  it  is  not  X,  but 
Jesus,  who  is  trying  you  in  this  way."  (June,  1916.) 

(M).  "  Make  this  Act  of  Immolation  to-morrow,  Good 
Friday,  at  three  o'clock.  If  you  mean  it  and  try  henceforth 


UNION   AND   ABANDONMENT  193 

to  live  up  to  its  spirit,  it  will  be  'a  holocaust  in  the  odour 
of  sweetness/  a  perpetual  sacrifice  of  your  own  will,  ever 
ascending  before  the  throne  of  God,  and  will  draw  down 
upon  you,  I  am  convinced,  many  great  and  wonderful 
graces. 

"  The  practice  of  this  act  is  simply  that  you  give  yourself 
into  the  hands  of  Jesus  in  the  most  absolute  manner  possible, 
abandoning  especially  your  own  will,  that  He  may  do  with 
you,  at  every  moment  and  in  every  way,  as  He  pleases  ; 
you  give  yourself  to  Him  as  His  willing  victim  to  be  immolated 
to  His  good  pleasure,  and  should  He  so  please,  to  be  sacrificed 
and  to  suffer  without  complaint  or  murmur  whatsoever  He 
may  wish. 

"  Trials,  disappointments,  failure,  humiliations,  suffering 
of  body  and  soul  may  crowd  upon  you,  at  least  from  time 
to  time,  but  if  you  welcome  them  all  as  coming  direct  from 
His  hand  in  answer  to  your  generous  offering,  and  as  part 
of  the  immolation  of  His  willing  victim,  you  will  find  a 
sweetness  and  a  delight  in  these  things  you  never  tasted 
before. 

'  This  is  the  life  I  promised  to  point  out  to  you  which, 
I  said,  would  make  you  a  greater  saint  than  if  you  were 
buried  in  a  cloister.  For  your  present  life  is  daily  full  of 
opportunities  of  proving  that  you  wish  and  are  willing  to 
suffer,  to  be  immolated  and  sacrificed  for  the  love  of  Jesus, 
'  the  Victim  of  Love  '  who  is  ever  offered  still  on  our  altars. 
Make  the  act  in  a  spirit  of  deep  humility  but  with  immense 
trust  and  confidence  in  the  grace  of  God  which  will  not 
fail  you.  May  our  crucified  Jesus  take  you  now,  my  dear 
child,  and  nail  you  to  the  cross  with  Himself "  (Holy 
Thursday,  1913.) 

The  following  is  the  Act  which  is  here  referred  to.1 
Act  of  Immolation. 

O  most  sweet  Jesus,  with  all  my  heart,  united  to  the 
dispositions  of  Your  holy  Mother  upon  Calvary,  through  her 
and  with  her,  I  offer  myself  to  You  and  to  the  adorable 
Trinity,  upon  all  the  altars  of  the  world,  as  a  most  pure 

i. — Some  of  the  sentences  in  this  Act  of  Immolation  are  taken  from  Sceur 
Gertrude-Marie — Une  mystique de  nos  jours,  p.  145  (abridged  Engf.  trans.,  p.  25). 

N 


194  FATHER  WILLIAM   DOYLE,   S.J. 

oblation,  uniting  in  myself  every  sacrifice  and  act  of 
homage. 

I  offer  Your  Sacred  Wounds  and  all  the  Blood  You  have 
shed,  particularly  the  sweet  Wound  of  Your  Sacred  Heart 
with  the  blood  and  water  which  flowed  from  It,  and  the 
precious  tears  of  Your  Mother. 

I  offer  this  most  holy  sacrifice  in  union  with  all  the  souls 
who  love  You  in  Heaven  and  on  earth  for  all  the  intentions 
of  Your  Divine  Heart,  and  especially  as  a  victim  of  expiation 
and  impetration  on  behalf  of  Your  priests  and  of  the  souls 
whom  You  have  consecrated  to  Yourself. 

I  offer  myself  to  You  to  be  Your  Victim  in  the  fullest 
sense  of  the  word.  I  deliver  to  You  my  body,  my  soul, 
my  heart,  all  that  I  have,  that  You  may  dispose  of  and 
immolate  them  according  to  Your  good  pleasure.  Do  with 
me  as  You  please,  without  consulting  my  desires,  my  repug 
nances,  my  wishes. 

I  offer  myself  to  Your  Justice,  to  Your  Sanctity,  to  Your 
Love.  To  Your  Justice,  to  make  reparation  for  my  sins 
and  those  of  all  poor  sinners.  To  Your  Holiness,  for  my 
own  sanctification  and  that  of  all  souls  consecrated  to  You, 
especially  Your  priests.  To  Your  Love,  in  order  that  You 
may  make  of  my  heart  a  perpetual  holocaust  of  pure  love. 

O  Jesus  !  receive  me  now  from  the  hands  of  Your  most 
holy  Mother,  offer  me  with  Yourself  and  immolate  me  along 
with  You.  I  offer  myself  to  You  by  her  hands  in  order 
that  You  may  unite  me  to  Your  ceaseless  Immolation,  and 
that  through  me  and  by  me  You  may  satisfy  the  burning 
desire  which  You  have  to  suffer  for  the  glory  of  Your  Father, 
the  salvation  of  souls  and  especially  the  perfection  and 
sanctification  of  Your  priests  and  Your  chosen  souls. 

Receive  and  accept  me,  I  beg  of  You,  in  spite  of  my  great 
unworthiness  and  wretchedness.  From  henceforth  I  shall 
look  upon  all  the  crosses,  all  the  sufferings,  all  the  trials, 
which  Your  Providence  has  destined  for  me  and  will  send 
me,  as  so  many  signs  which  will  prove  to  me  that  You  have 
accepted  my  humble  offering  Amenj 

(N).  "As  regards  the  Act  of  Immolation  I  give  you  full 
permission  to  make  it.  But  do  not  complain  to  our  dear 
Lord  if  He  takes  you  at  your  word  and  makes  you  His  victim. 


UNION   AND   ABANDONMENT  195 

You  need  not  fear  whatever  He  may  send  you  to  bear,  since 
His  grace  will  come  with  it ;  but  you  should  always  try  to 
keep  in  mind  your  offering,  living  up  to  the  spirit  of  it.  Hence 
endeavour  to  see  the  hand  of  God  in  everything  that  happens 
to  you  now  ;  e.g.  if  you  rise  in  the  morning  with  a  headache, 
thank  Him  for  sending  it,  since  a  victim  is  one  who  must 
be  immolated  and  crucified.  Again,  look  upon  all 
humiliations  and  crosses,  failure  and  disappointment  in 
your  work,  in  a  word,  everything  that  is  hard,  as  His  seal 
upon  your  offering,  and  rouse  yourself  to  bear  all  cheerfully 
and  lovingly,  remembering  that  you  are  to  be  His  '  suffering 
love.'  "  (September,  1914.) 


(5.)  THE  CROSS. 

Thus  Fr.  Doyle's  ideal  of  conformity  to  God's  will  meant 
a  gradual  development  of  passive  patient  resignation  into  a 
joyful  spontaneous  acceptance  of  everything  from  God's 
hands  and  a  watchful  promptness,  not  only  to  obey  the 
inspirations  of  grace,  but  also  to  embrace  what  he  loved 
to  call  "  the  hard  things."  "As  a  rule  you  will  find."  he 
said,  "  that  when  you  do  the  hard  thing  just  because  it  is 
hard,  great  consolation  and  love  always  follow  "  While  he 
utilised  every  psychological  expedient  to  help  spiritual 
progress,  he  never  attempted  to  substitute  an  easy  short 
cut  for  the  royal  road  of  the  cross  ;  there  is  no  detour  round 
the  hill  of  Calvary.  When  a  religious  asked  him  for  a  spiritual 
motto,  he  wrote,  "  Lord,  make  me  a  saint  and  do  not  spare 
me  in  the  making."  And  when  the  latter  half  was  objected 
to,  he  rejoined,  "  If  you  desire  the  accomplishment  of  the 
first  part,  you  must  be  ready  to  accept  generously  and 
wholeheartedly  the  latter  part — no  compromise  !  "  In  this 
stern  teaching,  however,  he  was  careful  to  emphasise  three 
points  and  to  guard  against  errors,  (i)  It  is  not  a  question 
of  feelings,  but  of  will.  Naturally  we  hate  suffering  and 
dread  pain  ;  were  it  otherwise,  we  should  be  either  coarsely 
or  morbidly  insensitive.  The  ideal  is  not  to  suppress  or 


196  FATHER   WILLIAM   DOYLE,   SJ. 

eliminate  emotion  and  feeling,  that  would  be  an  inhuman 
aim ;  nor  is  it  even  to  attain  an  unnatural  state  of  indifference 
and  quiescence.  The  Christian  ideal  is  rather  to  strengthen 
and  elevate  the  will,  the  higher  self  ;  the  struggle  is  one 
of  soul,  not  of  body.  (2)  Nor  is  it  necessary  to  conjure  up 
possibilities  of  suffering  and  humiliation ;  we  need  only  live 
from  day  to  day  amid  the  circumstances  which  God's 
providence  has  woven  round  us.  The  imagination  should 
not  be  allowed  to  terrify  the  soul  by  picturing  future  trials 
which  may  never  come.  There  is  no  need  for  discouragement 
because  one  feels  unable  to  pray  for  suffering.  "  To  ask 
for  suffering,"  says  Fr.  Doyle,  "  is  often  secret  pride  or 
presumption  ;  but  you  may  offer  yourself  to  our  Lord  to 
bear  whatever  He  may  wish  to  send  you."  (3)  This  attitude 
towards  suffering  will  never  be  attained  merely  by  con 
centrating  on  details,  by  immersing  oneself  in  the  actual 
trials  to  be  borne.  Our  gaze  should  be  fixed  not  on  the  Cross 
but  on  the  Crucifix,  not  on  self-crucifixion  but  on  "  Jesus 
Christ  and  Him  crucified  "  (/  Cor.  2.  2.)  The  mistake  is 
often  made  by  holy  souls  of  allowing  their  attention  to  be 
engrossed  in  the  petty  details  of  their  actual  sufferings  or 
premeditated  penances,  occupying  themselves,  as  it  were,  in 
pin-pricking.  It  is  bad  psychology  and  bad  spirituality.  The 
apostles  went  forth  "  rejoicing  that  they  were  accounted 
worthy  to  suffer  reproach  for  the  name  of  Jesus  "  (Acts 
5.  41)  ;  their  joy  was  not  in  counting  the  stripes  but  in  the 
thought  of  Jesus.  And  so  it  has  ever  been  ;  the  men  and 
women  who  have  dared  and  done  hard  things  have  always 
been  led  by  some  great  ideal  or  overmastering  passion.  We 
shall  face  the  Cross  only  if  we  are  filled  with  the  love  of 
the  Crucified. 

(A).  "  I  have  long  had  the  feeling  that,  since  the  world 
is  growing  so  rapidly  worse  and  worse  and  God  has  lost  His 
hold,  as  it  were,  upon  the  hearts  of  men,  He  is  looking  all 
the  more  earnestly  and  anxiously  for  big  things  from  those 
who  are  faithful  to  Him  still.  He  cannot,  perhaps,  gather 
a  large  army  round  His  standard,  but  He  wants  every  one 
in  it  to  be  a  Hero,  absolutely  and  lovingly  devoted  to  Him  ; 
if  only  we  could  get  inside  that  magic  circle  of  generous 
souls,  I  believe  there  is  no  grace  He  would  not  give  us  to  help 


THE   CROSS  197 

on  the  work  He  has  so  much  at  heart,  our  personal  sancti- 
fication  Every  day  you  live  means  an  infallible  growth  in 
holiness  which  may  be  multiplied  a  thousand  times  by  a 
little  generosity.  When  you  get  the  chance  hammer  into 
the  '  Little  Flowers  '  around  you  that  holiness  means  three 
things  : — Love,  Prayer,  Sacrifice  " 

(B).  "A  want  of  will  is  the  chief  obstacle  to  our  becoming 
saints.  We  are  not  holy  because  we  do  not  really  wish  to 
become  so.  We  would  indeed  gladly  possess  the  virtues 
of  the  saints — their  humility  and  patience,  their  love  o! 
suffering,  their  penance  and  zeal.  But  we  are  unwilling  to 
embrace  all  that  goes  to  make  a  saint  and  to  enter  on  the 
narrow  path  which  leads  to  sanctity.  A  strong  will,  a  resolute 
will,  is  needed  ;  a  will  which  is  not  to  be  broken  by  difficulties 
or  turned  aside  by  trifling  obstacles  ;  a  determination  to 
be  a  saint  and  not  to  faint  and  falter  because  the  way  seems 
long  and  hard  and  narrow.  A  big  heart,  a  courageous  heart, 
is  needed  for  sanctification,  to  fight  our  worst  enemy — our 
own  self-love "  (aoth  November,  1905.) 

(C).  '  '  One  thing  is  wanting  to  thee.'  (S.  Luke  18.  22.) 
How  many  souls  there  are  upon  whom  Jesus  looks  with  love, 
souls  who  are  very  dear  to  His  Sacred  Heart,  for  they  have 
done  much  and  sacrificed  much  for  Him.  Yet  He  asks 
for  more,  He  wants  that  last  sacrifice,  the  surrender  of  that 
secret  clinging  to  some  trifling  attachment,  that  their  lives 
may  be  a  perfect  holocaust  How  many  souls  hear  this 
little  voice,  '  One  thing  is  wanting  to  you  that  you  may  be 
perfect,'  one  generous  effort  to  break  away  from  the  almost 
severed  ties  of  self-love,  and  yet  they  heed  it  not.  Liberty, 
home  and  family  they  have  given  up,  the  joys  and  pleasures 
of  this  world  they  have  despised,  for  a  life  of  easy  comfort 
they  have  embraced  the  poverty  of  Christ ;  but  still  they 
cling  to  some  trifling  gratification,  and  heed  not  the  pleadings 
of  the  Sacred  Heart."  (3rd  November,  1905.) 

(D).  "  Over  and  over  again  I  asked  myself,  when  reading 
that  book,1  was  it  not  strange  that  I  should  come  across 

I. — Probably  the  Life  of  Mere  Marie  de  J^sus  (Marie  Deluil-Martiny). 
See  p.  156. 


198  FATHER  WILLIAM  DOYLE,   S.J. 

the  very  ideas  which  had  been  in  my  mind  so  long  :  namely, 
the  longing  of  our  Lord  for  more  souls  who  would  be  absolutely 
at  His  mercy,  His  pleasure  and  disposal ;  souls  in  whom  He 
could  work  at  will,  knowing  that  they  would  never  resist 
Him,  even  by  praying  to  Him  to  lessen  the  trials  He  was 
sending  ;  souls  who  were  willing  and  longing  to  be  sacrificed 
and  immolated  in  spite  of  all  the  shrinking  of  weak  human 
nature. 

"  Now  I  have  long  thought  He  wants  that  from  you.  And 
everything  that  is  happening  seems  to  point  that  way.  If 
you  make  such  a  surrender  of  yourself  absolutely  into  His 
hands,  I  know  not  what  humiliations,  trials  and  even 
sufferings  may  come  upon  you,  though  you  must  not  ask 
for  them.  But  He  will  send  you  grace  in  abundance  to 
bear  them,  He  will  draw  immense  glory  out  of  your  loving 
crucifixion,  and  in  spite  of  yourself  He  will  make  you  a 
saint.  .  .  This  must  be  chiefly  an  act  of  the  will,  for 
it  would  be  unnatural  not  to  feel  trials  or  humiliations  ;  but 
even  when  the  tears  of  pain  are  falling,  the  higher  nature 
can  rejoice.  You  can  see  this  is  high  perfection,  but  it  will 
bring  great  peace  to  your  soul.  Our  Lord  will  take  the  work 
of  your  sanctification  into  His  own  hands,  if  you  keep  the 
words  of  the  Imitation  (iii.  17.  i)  ever  before  you  :  '  Child, 
suffer  Me  to  do  with  thee  whatever  I  will.'  Do  not  be  afraid 
for  He  would  not  ask  this  if  He  did  not  intend  to  find  you 
the  grace."  (February,  1912.) 

(E)  "  You  must  bear  in  mind  that,  if  God  has  marked 
you  out  for  very  great  graces  and  possibly  a  holiness  of  which 
you  do  not  even  dream,  you  must  be  ready  to  suffer  ;  and  the 
more  of  this  comes  to  you,  especially  sufferings  of  soul,  the 
happier  it  ought  to  make  you.  St.  Francis  de  Sales  says 
that  '  One  of  the  most  certain  marks  that  God  has  great 
designs  upon  a  person  is  when  He  sends  desolation  upon 
desolation,  suffering  upon  suifering.'  Love  of  God  is 
holiness,  but  the  price  of  love  is  pain.  Round  the  treasure- 
house  of  His  love,  God  has  set  a  thorny  hedge  ;  those  who 
would  force  their  way  through  must  not  shrink  when  they 
feel  the  sharpness  of  the  thorns  piercing  their  very  soul. 
But  alas  !  how  many  after  a  step  or  two  turn  sadly  back 
in  fear,  and  so  never  reach  the  side  of  Jesus. 


THE   CROSS  199 

"  You  will  see,  therefore,  that  your  present  state  is  quite 
a  natural  one  to  expect,  and  instead  of  depressing  you,  should 
rather  console  and  rejoice  your  heart.  Do  not  be  surprised 
if  you  find  the  life  of  sacrifice,  constant  sacrifice,  a  hard 
one.  Crucifixion  is  ever  so  to  human  nature,  even  the  big 
saints  found  that,  and  shrank  from  it  with  all  their  might. 
Poor  weak  human  nature  is  ever  crying,  '  Come  down  from 
the  Cross/  and  the  devils,  of  course,  will  pull  us  down  if 
they  can  ;  the  easier  life  of  others,  too,  is  a  temptation  to 
us  and  is  naturally  more  attractive  ;  all  of  which  often 
plunges  one  into  a  feeling  of  sadness  and  that  feeling  of 
'  being  crushed,'  about  which  you  speak." 

(F).  "  You  seem  to  be  a  little  upset  at  not  being  able  to 
feel  more  that  you  really  love  our  Lord.  The  mere  longing 
desire  to  do  so  is  a  certain  proof  that  love,  and  much  of  it, 
exists  in  your  heart.  But  you  can  test  your  love  infallibly 
and  find  out  how  much  you  have  by  asking  yourself  this 
question  :  What  am  I  willing  to  suffer  for  Him  ?  It  is  the 
test  of  St  Francis  de  Sales  :  '  Willingness  to  suffer  is  a  certain 
proof  of  love.'  This  question  I  will  answer  for  you.  Though 
naturally  you  dread  and  shrink  from  pain  and  humiliation, 
I  am  certain  there  is  no  humiliation  or  suffering  which  you 
would  refuse  to  accept  if  God  asked  you  to  bear  it.  That 
being  so,  you  can  say  to  our  Lord  with  all  the  confidence 
of  Peter  who  seemed  to  doubt  his  own  heart  :  Lord,  Thou 
knowest  that  I  love  Thee  with  all  my  heart  and  soul  and 
strength,  for  I  would  gladly  lay  down  my  life  for  Thee." 
(March,  1913.) 

(G).  "  You  seem  to  be  troubled  that  you  cannot  love  God 
when  trials  come  and  all  is  darkness.  But  that  is  just  the 
moment  when  you  love  Him  most  and  prove  your  love  the 
best.  If  only,  when  you  are  in  desolation  and  dryness,  you 
force  yourself  to  utter  an  act  of  love  or  an  oblation  of  yourself 
without  a  particle  of  feeling,  you  make  an  offering  which  is 
of  surpassing  value  in  His  eyes  and  most  pleasing  to  His 
Sacred  Heart.  A  dry  act  of  love  is  a  real  act  of  love,  since 
it  is  all  for  Jesus  and  nothing  for  self.  Therefore 
welcome  the  hard  black  days  as  real  harvest  time  '• 
(December,  1912.) 


coo  FATHER    WILLIAM   DOYLE,   SJ, 

(H).  "  Don't  lose  sight  of  this  principle,  that  true  holiness 
is  based  on  humility  which  can  never  be  attained  except 
by  humiliations  and  plenty  of  them  Pray  daily  that  '  the 
hard  knocks  of  humiliation  '  may  increase,  for  holiness  will 
grow  in  proportion.  Do  not  forget,  with  reference  to  what 
you  have  to  suffer  from  others,  that  it  is  all  part  of  God's 
plan  for  your  sanctification.  If  you  want  to  be  a  saint, 
you  must  suffer  and  in  the  way  that  pleases  God,  not 
yourself.  Till  you  come  to  recognize  that  you  are  a 
'  football '  and  really  deserve  to  be  kicked  by  everyone, 
the  grace  of  God  will  not  produce  its  effect  in  your  soul. 
'  He  hath  regarded  the  humility  of  His  handmaid.'  "  (5.  Luke 
i.  48.)  (March,  1916.) 

(I).  "I  can  quite  understand  your  difficult  position  and 
the  suffering  caused — I  can  quite  believe  unintentionally — 
by  the  Sister  you  speak  of.  ...  Once  get  hold  of  the 
principle  that  all  that  happens  comes  straight  from  the  hand 
of  God,  and  you  have  found  the  secret  of  deep  peace  which 
nothing  can  disturb.  You  must  look  upon  this  Sister  as 
the  '  chisel '  in  the  Almighty  Worker's  hand.  He  knows 
the  best  tool  to  use,  and  all  we  have  to  do  is  to  let  Him  use 
it  as  He  pleases.  Don't  expect  that  poor  weak  human 
nature  will  submit  to  the  blows  without  a  murmur.  But 
with  an  effort  of  the  will  we  can  crush  this  down,  until  in 
the  end  what  once  caused  us  pain  and  tears  becomes  the 
source  of  great  interior  joy,  since  we  have  realised  how  these 
things  help  on  our  spiritual  progress.  Hence  I  would  advise 
you  without  any  hesitation,  not  to  try  to  get  a  change  unless 
it  be  to  a  house  where  you  will  have  two  disagreeable  Sisters 
instead  of  one  !  This  may  sound  a  bit  heroic,  but  .  .  . 
there  is  no  happiness  like  seeking  and  embracing  the  '  hard 
things  '  for  the  love  of  Jesus."  (July,  1914.) 

(J).  "  Remember  the  devil  is  a  bad  spiritual  director,  and 
you  may  always  recognise  his  apparently  good  suggestions 
by  the  disturbances  they  cause  in  the  soul.  Our  Lord  would 
never  urge  you  to  turn  away  from  a  path  which  is  leading 
you  nearer  to  Himself,  nor  frighten  you  with  the  prospect 
of  future  unbearable  trials.  If  they  do  come,  grace  will 
come  also  and  make  you  abound  with  joy  in  all  your 
tribulations ."  (July,  1913.) 


THE   CROSS  201 

(K).  'You  may  make  the  most  complete  and  absolute 
offering  of  yourself  to  God  to  bear  every  pain  He  may  wish 
to  send.  Renew  this  frequently  and  place  yourself  in  His 
hands  as  His  willing  victim  to  be  immolated  on  the  altar 
of  sacrifice.  But  it  is  better  not  to  ask  directly  for  great 
sufferings  ;  few  of  the  saints  did  so."1  (April.  1912.) 

(L).  "I  read  through  your  diary  of  little  victories  with 
intense  joy,  until  I  came  to  the  entry,  '  actually  felt  glad 
at  receiving  a  snub  to-day,'  when  I  felt  my  cup  of  happiness 
was  full.  .  .  .  This  is  what  I  have  been  longing  for. 
.  .  .  To  yearn  for,  to  seek  and  delight  in  the  hard  thing, 
is  not  only  the  road  to  heroic  sanctity,  but  means  a  life  of 
wonderful  interior  joy."  (February,  1916.) 

(M)  "  God  wants  you  to  suffer  willingly.  Many  rebel  and 
fight  against  what  God  gives  them  ;  many  more  take  their 
cross  in  a  resigned  '  can't  be  helped  '  spirit ;  but  very  few 
look  upon  these  things  as  real  blessings  and  kiss  the  Hand 
that  strikes  them."  (1912.) 


(6.)  LITTLE  THINGS. 

Idealism,  however  fervent  and  absorbing,  must  never  be 
an  excuse  for  vague  and  unpractical  emotion.  As  already 
pointed  out,2  the  genius  of  S.  Ignatius  consisted  in  his  careful 
and  methodic  exploitation  of  religious  energy  Steam  is  of 
no  use,  rather  a  nuisance,  until  we  have  a  cylinder  and  piston 
for  it.  How  much  spiritual  fervour  goes  to  waste,  without 
a  particular  examen  and  definite  applications  !  A  gallon  of 
petrol  might  be  misused  to  blow  a  car  sky-high  ;  with  care 
and  inventiveness  it  can  be  employed  to  propel  it  to  the 
top  of  a  hill.  These  comparisons  will  show  us  that  Ignatius, 
though  a  soldier,  might  be  even  more  aptly  described  as  a 
spiritual  engineer.  There  is  always  this  touch  in  Jesuit 

i. — Compare  Mgr.  d'Hulst :  "After  offering  the  Holy  Sacrifice  for  you  and 
praying-,  I  tell  you  there  is  a  slight  change  to  be  made  in  the  terms  of  your 
offering.  Instead  of  wishing  for  suffering,  you  must  wish  for  the  surrender  of 
your  whole  self  to  all  He  may  desire  of  you." — The  Way  of  the  Heart :  Letters 
oj  Direction,  Eng.  trans.  1913,  p.  306. 

2. — See  pp.  Hi,  121. 


202  FATHER   WILLIAM   DOYLE,   S.J. 

spirituality.  Not  too  much  of  the  spectator's  aesthetic 
appreciation  of  a  mighty  spiritual  cataract,  rather  a  tendency 
to  calculate  its  horse-power  and  to  get  it  harnessed  and 
guided.  In  the  case  of  a  naturally  impulsive,  emotional 
and  perhaps  wayward  character  like  that  of  Fr.  Doyle,  the 
effects  and  advantages  of  this  applied  science  of  the  soul 
are  particularly  obvious.  Not  only  in  his  own  case,  but 
especially  in  directing  others,  he  sought  not  to  deaden  energy, 
not  to  paralyse  will-power,  not  to  kill  emotion,  but  to  convert 
them  all  into  driving  forces  for  the  mills  of  God.  And  God's 
mills  grind  exceeding  slow  !  The  just  awakened  energy  of 
the  novice  usually  seeks  to  expend  itself  in  weird  ventures, 
in  sudden  outbursts,  in  anarchic  violence,  in  impossible 
outlets.  Ordinary  life,  with  its  dull  tasks  and  sluggish 
routine,  seems  unworthy  of  the  high  ideals  and  chivalrous 
emprise  of  one  who  has  caught  the  accents  of  Christ.  So 
too  thought  the  erstwhile  Don  Ifiigo,  now  Christ's  pilgrim, 
clad  in  the  picturesque  aristocracy  of  sheer  beggary.  Far 
otherwise  did  he  begin  to  think  as  he  toiled  at  Latin  grammar 
in  Barcelona,  learnt  logic  at  Alcala  and  studied  theology  at 
Paris.  And  finally  this  great  stream  of  spiritual  energy 
which  started  with  wild  turbulence  in  Loyola  and  Manresa, 
is  conveyed — sluiced  and  piped,  as  it  were, — to  a  dingy  room 
in  Rome  where  Ignatius  dealt  with  administration  and 
correspondence 

It  is  the  lesson  which  Fr.  Doyle  loved  to  teach.  He 
showed  his  spiritual  children  how  to  focus  their  idealism  on 
the  seemingly  little  things  of  life  and  the  day's  drab  details. 
Little  things — why  do  we  call  them  little  at  all  ?  We  must 
not  measure  spirituality  in  cubic  feet,  nor  should  we  judge 
holiness  by  the  acreage  of  our  activities.  "  Nothing  is  too 
small  to  offer  to  God,"  Fr.  Doyle  used  to  say  ;  for  what  is 
small  to  men  may  be  great  in  the  Master's  eyes.  It  is  in 
little  acts  that  heroism  is  acquired,  it  is  by  patient  per 
severance  and  methodic  effort  that  sanctity  is  won.1  Such 
is  the  message  straight  from  his  own  life,  a  life  whose  real 
greatness  was  within. 

•• — Fr.  Doyle  was  very  insistent  on  businesslike  and  systematic  efforts.  Thus 
he  would  make  his  penitent  note  down  certain  failing's  or  act*  of  self-denial  and 
on  his  next  visit  he  would  carefully  inspect  the  little  book.  See  extract  L,  p.  201. 


LITTLE   THINGS  203 

A).  "  What  more  insignificant  than  the  ordinary  daily 
duties  of  religious  life  !  Each  succeeding  hour  brings  with 
it  some  allotted  task,  yet  in  the  faithful  performance  of  these 
trifling  acts  of  our  everyday  life  lies  the  secret  of  true  sanctity. 
Too  often  the  constant  repetition  of  the  same  acts,  though 
in  themselves  they  be  of  the  holiest  nature,  makes  us  go- 
through  them  in  a  mechanical  way  We  meditate,  we  assist 
at  holy  Mass,  more  from  a  sense  of  duty  than  from  any 
affection  to  prayer.  Our  domestic  duties,  our  hours  of 
labour,  of  teaching,  are  faithfully  discharged — but  what 
motive  has  animated  us  in  their  performance  ?  Have  we 
not  worked  because  we  must,  or  unconsciously  because  the 
bell  has  rung,  rather  than  from  the  motive  of  pleasing  God 
and  doing  His  will  ?  "  (i5th  April,  1905.) 

(B)  "  One  thing  I  ask  of  you,  dear  child  :  Don't  be  a 
saint  by  halves,  but  give  Him  all  He  asks  and  always." 

(C).  "  Life  is  only  a  day  quickly  passed  and  gone,  but 
the  merit  of  it,  the  glory  given  to  God,  will  remain  for  ever. 
Give  Him  all  you  can  generously  and  lovingly,  do  not  let 
one  little  sacrifice  escape  you,  they  are  dear  to  Him  because 
He  finds  so  few  really  generous  souls  who  think  only  of  Him 
and  never  of  themselves." 

(D).  "  Live  for  the  day,  as  you  say — but  let  it  be  a  generous 
day.  Have  you  ever  tried  giving  God  one  day  in  which  you 
refused  Him  nothing,  a  day  of  absolute  generosity  ?  " 

(E) .  "  Try  to  take  your  days  one  by  one  as  they  come 
to  you.  The  hard  things  of  yesterday  are  past,  and  you 
are  not  asked  to  bear  what  to-morrow  may  have  in  store  ; 
so  that  the  cross  is  really  light  when  you  take  it  bit  by  bit." 
(November,  1914.) 

(F).  "I  am  glad  you  have  found  profit  from  the  particular 
examen  You  must  push  on  with  this,  for  remember  you 
are  no  beginner  in  the  spiritual  life.  From  time  to  time 
increase  the  number  of  acts  when  you  find  facility  coming. 
However  it  is  better  to  keep  to  a  fixed  number  steadily 
than  to  go  jumping  up  and  down,  better,  for  example,  to 
make  twenty-five  acts  every  day  than  fifty  one  day  and 
ten  the  next  The  rule  to  keep  before  you  is  :  Look  upon 


204  FATHER   WILLIAM   DOYLE,   S.J. 

nothing  as  too  small  to  offer  to  God.  Big  sacrifices '  do  not 
come  very  often,  and  generally  we  are  too  cowardly  to  make 
them  when  they  do.  But  little  ones  are  as  plentiful  as 
blackberries  in  September,  and  stiffen  the  moral  courage, 
by  the  constant  repetition  of  them,  to  do,  in  the  end,  even 
heroic  things.  Expect,  too,  that  at  times  this  steady  keeping 
up  the  fixed  number  will  pall  upon  you  ;  possibly  you  will 
even  pitch  up  the  examen  for  a  day  or  two,  but  pick  it  up 
again  and  no  harm  will  be  done  ;  these  failures  will  become 
fewer  by  degrees.  Again,  nothing  is  too  small ;  in  fact  the 
smaller  it  is  the  better,  so  long  as  it  is  some  denial 
of  your  will,  some  act  you  would  just  as  soon  not  do." 
(February  1912.) 

(G).  "  Possibly  you  have  been  a  little  too  generous  in 
the  time  of  fervour  and  have  attempted  more  than  you 
were  able  for,  which  would  account  in  part,  at  least,  for  the 
feeling  of  '  being  crushed.'  However  you  should  have 
been  prepared  to  find  that  the  generous  spirit  which  carried 
you  along  from  sacrifice  to  sacrifice  was  not  intended  to 
last,  it  was  only  meant  to  strengthen  you  for  the  time  of 
trial.  To  serve  God  generously  when  the  music  of  con 
solation  is  sounding  in  our  cars  is  no  doubt  pleasing  to  Him, 
but  to  be  equally  faithful  when  all  is  black  and  dark  is  not 
only  a  thousand  times  more  sanctifying,  but  is  heroic  virtue. 
Hence  God  in  His  eagerness  for  our  perfection  takes  away, 
at  times,  all  sensible  consolation,  yet  is  really  nearer  to  us 
than  before. 

'  The  great  danger  to  be  faced  is  that  one  feels  inclined 
to  lose  heart,  to  be  discouraged — '  the  devil's  pet  walking 
stick  ' — and  in  the  end  to  give  up  all  striving  for  perfection, 
aiming  only  at  being  content  with  that  curse  of  every  religious 
house — Mediocrity. 

"As  I  said  before,  my  dear  child,  I  fancy  you  tried  to  do 
too  much,  to  be  too  generous.  Do  not  try  to  run  till  you 
can  walk  well.  Draw  up  a  list  of  certain  little  sacrifices 
which  you  feel  God  is  asking  from  you  and  which  you  know 
you  will  be  able  to  give  Him  without  very  much  difficulty — 
better  be  cowardly  than  too  generous.  Then,  come  what 
may,  be  faithful  to  your  list  and  shake  it  in  the  face  of  the 
tempter  when  he  suggests  that  you  should  give  it  up.  After 


LITTLE   THINGS  205 

some  time,  when  greater  facility  has  come  by  practice,  you 
might  add  a  little  to  what  you  did  at  first,  and  so  on  till, 
please  God,  one  day  you  will  be  able  to  say,  '  I  know  only 
Jesus  Christ,  and  Him  crucified  ;  with  Christ  I  am  nailed 
to  the  Cross.'  '  (7  Cor.  2.  2  ;  Galat.  2.  19.) 

(H).  "  I  think  He  would  like  you  to  pay  more  attention 
to  little  things,  looking  on  nothing  as  small,  if  connected 
with  His  service  and  worship.  Also  try  to  remember  that 
nothing  is  too  small  to  offer  to  Him — that  is,  the  tiniest  act 
of  self-conquest  is  of  immense  value  in  His  eyes,  and  even 
lifting  one's  eyes  as  an  act  of  love  brings  great  grace  " 

(I).  "I  want  you  to  stick  to  two  things  :  the  aspirations 
and  the  tiny  acts  of  self-conquest  Count  them  and  mark 
them  daily.  You  need  nothing  else  to  make  you  a  saint. 
The  weekly  total,  growing  bigger  as  you  persevere,  will  show 
you  how  fast  you  are  growing  in  perfection." 

(J).  "  It  is  indeed  easy  to  condemn  oneself  to  death,  tc 
make  a  generous  offering  of  self-immolation  ;  but  to  carry 
out  the  execution  daily  is  more  than  most  can  do.  .  . 
Go  on  bravely,  don't  expect  too  much  from  yourself,  for 
God  often  leaves  dne  powerless  in  acts  of  self-conquest  in 
order  to  make  one  humble  and  to  have  more  recourse  to 
Him.  Remember  above  all  that  even  one  small  victory 
makes  up  for  a  hundred  defects." 

(K).  "  The  notebook  was  most  helpful  to  me  as  showing 
the  way  by  which  Jesus  is  leading  you  to  perfection  if  only 
you  have  the  courage  to  face  it.  All  these  trials,  snubs, 
unpleasantnesses,  etc.,  do  not  come  to  you  by  chance.  They 
are  precious  jewels  from  the  hand  of  God  ;  and,  if  you  could 
only  bring  yourself  to  look  upon  them  in  the  right  light, 
they  would  make  you  a  really  great  saint." 


206  FATHER   WILLIAM   DOYLE,   S.J 


(7.)  PRAYER. 

The  extracts  given  above  from  Fr.  Doyle's  letters  make 
it  evident  that  the  ideals  which  he  sought  to  impress  on 
others  were  partial  transcripts  from  his  own  inner  life.  It 
will  therefore  be  clear  that  his  strenuous  advocacy  of  prayer 
was  also  born  in  his  personal  experience.  This  indeed  has 
already  been  made  manifest  in  dealing  with  his  belief  in  the 
apostolate  of  prayer  and  in  the  efficacy  of  aspirations.1 
Hence  it  will  be  sufficient  to  collect  here  a  few  further 
quotations.  Brief  as  these  are,  they  illustrate  his  conviction 
•of  the  importance  of  prayer,  his  idea  that  it  ought,  so  to 
speak,  be  spread  out  thinly  over  one's  day  or  one's  life  as 
well  as  heaped  up  in  the  early  morning  or  during  a  retreat, 
his  wonderful  faith  in  prayer  as  the  unseen  motive-power 
of  missionary  effort.  "  Get  more  prayer  into  your  life  if 
you  can,"  "  Give  the  full  time  to  spiritual  duties,"  are 
typical  pieces  of  advice.  He  never  held  out  delusive 
prospects  of  easy  contemplation.  "  Don't  forget,"  he  wrote 
once,  "  that  prayer  is  the  hardest  corporal  penance."  "  It 
is  an  unnatural  thing,"  he  said  another  time,  "  that  is,  a 
supernatural  thing,  and  hence  must  be  hard  always  ;  for 
prayer  takes  us  out  of  our  natural  element.  But  pray  on 
all  the  same."  There  is  only  one  way  of  learning,  he  used 
to  say,  and  that  is  to  pray  often,  to  fill  up  all  the  little  chinks 
and  interstices  of  our  day  with  aspirations  and  prayers. 
"  Keep  in  God's  presence  going  through  the  house  and  try 
to  grasp  then  any  lights  you  may  have  got  in  prayer."  On 
the  other  hand,  he  tried  to  make  prayer  as  easy,  unstrained 
and  familiar  as  he  could.  He  prescribed  no  rigid  method, 
he  made  no  attempt  to  move  all  along  the  same  groove. 
"  Follow  the  attraction  of  the  Holy  Spirit,  for  all  souls  are 
not  led  by  the  same  path."  was  his  tolerant  counsel.2  He 
would  have  agreed  with  St.  Teresa's  saying3 :  "  Mental 

i.— See  pp.  65,  113. 

2. — See  p.  ii'jf.  Once  when  a  religious,  a  penitent  of  his,  asked  him  how  he 
himself  prayed,  he  knelt  down  and  with  childlike  simplicity  and  directness 
repeated  some  of  the  thoughts  and  prayers  of  his  morning  meditation. 

ir—Life  viii.  7. 


PRAYER  207 

prayer  is,  in  my  opinion,  nothing  else  but  being  on  terms 
of  friendship  with  God,  frequently  conversing  in  secret  with 
Him  who,  we  know,  loves  us." 

(A).  "  You  seem  to  have  fallen  into  the  common  snare  of 
Satan,  namely,  mistaking  your  work  for  prayer  and  pouring 
yourself  out  over  it.  Thus  the  soul  gets  dried  up  and  the 
body  so  fatigued  that  a  proper  service  of  God  is  impossible. 
Give  the  full  time  to  spiritual  duties.  Try  to  get  a  minute 
to  yourself,  and  a  half  hour  on  Sundays,  and  walk  about 
quietly  and  examine  your  state.  Note  where  you  have 
fallen  off,  etc.,  and  begin  again,  instead  of  waiting  for  the 
next  retreat  to  pull  you  up." 

(B).  "  You  seem  lately  to  have  had  a  bad  attack  of  want 
of  confidence  in  God  and  a  feeling  of  despair  of  ever  becoming 
a  saint.  Yet,  my  dear  child,  it  is  neither  impossible  or 
hopeless  as  long  as  God  leaves  it  in  our  power  to  pray.  You 
know  these  words  of  Fr.  de  Ravignan  (leaflet  enclosed).1 
I  never  realized  how  true  they  were  until  I  began  to  go  about 
the  country  and  get  into  close  touch  with  souls.  I  assert 
fearlessly  that  if  only  we  all  prayed  enough,  and  I  mean 
by  that  a  constant,  steady,  unflagging  stream  of  aspirations, 
petitions,  etc.,  from  the  heart,  there  is  not  one,  no  matter 
how  imperfect,  careless  or  even  sinful,  who  would  not  become 
a  saint  and  a  big  one.  I  am  perfectly  and  painfully  conscious 
that,  for  my  own  part,  I  do  not  pray  a  hundredth  part  of 
what  I  should  or  what  God  wants." 

(C).  "  Without  constant  union  with  our  Lord  there  is  not 
and  cannot  be  any  real  holiness,  one  reason  being  that  without 
recollection  the  inspirations  of  the  Holy  Spirit  are  missed 
and  with  them  a  host  of  opportunities  of  little  sacrifices 
and  a  shower  of  graces.  As  a  means  of  gaining  greater 
recollection,  each  morning  at  Holy  Communion  invite  Jesus 
to  dwell  in  your  heart  during  the  day  as  in  a  tabernacle. 
Try  all  day  to  imagine  even  His  bodily  presence  within  you 

i. — This  leaflet  contained  the  words  :  "  Believe  me,  my  dear  friends,  believe 
.an  experience  ripened  by  thirty  years  in  the  sacred  ministry.  I  do  here  affirm 
that  all  deceptions,  all  spiritual  deficiencies,  all  miseries,  all  falls,  all  faults, 
and  even  the  most  serious  wanderings  out  of  the  right  path,  all  proceed  from 
this  single  source — a  want  of  constancy  in  prayer.  Live  the  life  of  prayer, 
learn  to  bring  everything,  to  change  everything  into  prayer — pains  and  trials 
and  temptations  of  all  kinds." 


208  FATHER   WILLIAM  DOYLE,    S.J. 

and  often  turn  your  thoughts  inwards  and  adore  Him  as 
He  nestles  next  your  heart  in  a  very  real  manner,  quite 
different  from  His  presence  in  all  creation.  This  habit  is 
not  easily  acquired,  especially  in  a  busy  life  like  yours,  but 
much  may  be  done  by  constant  effort.  At  times  you  will 
have  to  leave  Him  alone  entirely,  but  as  soon  as  you  can, 
get  back  to  His  presence  again."  (February,  1912.) 

(D).  "As  regards  prayer,  you  should  try  to  follow  the 
attraction  of  the  Holy  Spirit,  for  all  souls  are  not  led  by  the 
same  path.  It  would  not  be  well  to  spend  all  the  time  in 
vocal  prayer,  there  should  be  some  meditation,  thought  or 
contemplation.  Try  '  basking  in  the  sun  of  God's  love,' 
that  is,  quietly  kneeling  before  the  Tabernacle,  as  you  would 
sit  enjoying  the  warm  sunshine,  not  trying  to  do  anything, 
except  love  Him,  but  realizing  that,  during  all  the  time 
you  arc  at  His  feet,  more  especially  when  dry  and  cold, 
grace  is  dropping  down  upon  your  soul  and  you  are  growing 
fast  in  holiness."  (May,  1913.) 

(E).  "You  ask  how  to  pray  well — the  answer  is,  Pray 
often,  in  season  and  out  of  season,  against  yourself,  in  spite 
of  yourself — there  is  no  other  way  What  a  man  of  prayer 
St.  James,  the  Apostle,  (his  feast  is  to-day)  must  have  been 
since  his  knees  became  like  those  of  a  camel  !  When  shall 
we  religious  realize  the  power  for  good  that  prayer,  constant, 
unflagging  prayer,  puts  into  our  hands  ?  Were  you  con 
vinced  of  this,  you  would  not  '  envy  me  my  spiritual  work.' 
Because  if  you  liked,  you  could  do  more  than  any  priest 
who  is  not  a  man  of  prayer,  though  you  might  not  have 
the  satisfaction  of  seeing  the  result  in  this  world.  Did  it 
ever  strike  you  that  when  our  Lord  pointed  out  the  '  fields 
white  for  the  harvest,'  He  did  not  urge  His  Apostle  to  go 
and  reap  it,  but  to  pray  ?  "l  (May,  1912.) 

(F).  "  '  I  have  called  upon  Thee  in  the  day  of  my  trouble.' 
(Psalm  -85.  7)  Jesus  is  our  comforter.  What  burden  is 
there  which  He  cannot  lighten  ?  What  cross,  He  cannot 
make  sweet  ?  Be  our  troubles  what  they  may,  if  only  we 
will  call  on  Jesus  and  implore  His  aid,  we  shall  find  our 

I. — S.  John  4.  35 ;     S.  Matthew  9.  38. 


PRAYER  209 

sufferings  lessen  and  the  rough  ways  smoothed  for  our 
bleeding  feet."  (8th  February,  1905.) 

(G).  "  How  often  have  we  murmured  against  the  good 
God  because  He  has  refused  our  petitions  or  frustrated  our 
plans.  Can  we  look  into  the  future  as  God  can  do  ?  Can 
we  see  now  and  realize  to  the  full  the  effect  our  request 
would  have  had  if  granted  ?  God  loves  us,  He  loves  us  too 
dearly  to  leave  us  to  the  guidance  of  our  poor  judgements ; 
and  when  He  turns  a  deaf  ear  to  our  entreaties,  it  is  as  a 
tender  Father  would  treat  the  longings  of  a  child  for  what 
would  work  him  harm."  (24th  February,  1905.) 

(H).  "You  are  bound  to  throw  yourself  heart  and  soul 
into  the  work  God  has  given  you  to  do.  The  devil's  object 
is  to  get  you  so  absorbed  in  your  work,  so  anxious  and  worried 
about  its  success,  that  you  will  become,  as  you  say,  a  religious 
only  in  name.  However,  to  see  his  snares,  as  St.  Ignatius 
calls  them,  is  half  the  battle.  You  must  go  directly  against 
what  he  wants.  But  how  ?  First  try  to  stir  up  your  faith 
and  see  in  everything,  big  and  little,  that  happens  the  hand 
of  God,  remembering  that  He  is  often  more  glorified  by  our 
failure  than  by  success.  This  will  prevent  irritability,  and 
having  done  your  best,  will  lessen  worry,  though  for  most 
of  us  it  is  impossible  quite  to  free  ourselves  from  that  weak 
ness.  Next,  a  big  effort,  and  it  needs  a  big  one  at  first, 
resolutely  to  give  every  moment  to  the  spiritual  duties  and 
to  shut  out  every  other  thought.  Prayer  calms  the  soul  as 
nothing  else  can,  more  especially  if  during  the  day  you  help 
the  grace  of  God  by  trying  to  keep  your  heart  united  with 
God,  who  is  dwelling  within  your  very  soul.  At  all  costs 
you  must  conquer  and  keep  your  peace  of  mind  (after  all 
in  a  few  years  what  will  it  matter  to  any  of  us  whether  we 
have  gained  success  or  not  ?),  otherwise  good-bye  to 

holiness Though    little    acts    of    penance    and 

aspirations  may  seem  to  be  done  mechanically,  on  no  account 
should  you  omit  them,  they  are  far  more  meritorious  in 
your  present  state."  (October,  1911.) 

(I).  "  You  seem  to  be  a  little  troubled  at  finding  yourself 
cold  at  prayer  and  as  if  our  Lord  had  abandoned  you.  Were 
it  otherwise  I  should  feel  uneasy ;  for  this  is  one  of  the  best 


210  FATHER  WILLIAM  DOYLE,  S.J. 

signs  that  you  are  really  pleasing  to  God,  since  He  puts 
your  fidelity  to  the  test  by  sending  desolation.  There  is 
no  happiness  to  be  compared  to  the  sweets  one  tastes  at 
times  in  prayer ;  but  this,  the  greatest  of  all  sacrifices,  He 
will  ask  from  you  at  times.  Hence  in  darkness  and  dryness, 
when  weariness  and  disgust  come  on  you,  when  the  thousand 
petty  worries  of  every  day  crowd  upon  you,  sursum  corda, 
raise  your  eyes  with  a  glad  smile  to  the  face  of  Jesus,  for  all 
is  well  and  He  is  sanctifying  you."  (October,  1912.) 

(J).  "  Work  away  at  the  life  of  union,  but  union  remember 
with  God  within  you,  not  outside  ;  so  many  go  wrong  on  this 
point.  Do  not  give  up  prayer  on  any  account,  no  matter 
how  dry  or  '  rotten  '  you  feel ;  every  moment,  especially 
before  Him  in  the  Tabernacle,  is  a  certain,  positive  gain  ; 
the  effect  will  be  there  though  you  may  not  feel  it.  If  you 
feel  drawn  '  to  rest  in  God,'  to  let  yourself  sink  down  as  it 
were  into  Him,  do  so  without  bothering  to  say  anything. 
I  think  the  best  of  all  prayers  is  just  to  kneel  quietly  and 
let  Jesus  pour  Himself  into  your  soul."  (July,  1917.) 

(K)«  "A  deadly  pitfall  lies  hidden  in  the  desire  of  some 
to  pour  themselves  out  in  works  of  zeal  for  God's  glory,  to 
which  the  evil  spirit  not  uncommonly  urges  those  whom  he 
sees  full  of  zeal.  It  is  evident  even  to  one  little  versed  in 
the  way  of  the  spiritual  life  that  a  multiplicity  of  external 
occupations,  even  though  good  and  meritorious  in  themselves, 
must  by  their  very  nature  hinder  that  calm  peace  of  soul 
which  is  essential  for  interior  union  with  God. 

"  For  one  who  has  advanced  in  the  way  of  interior  union, 
no  life,  no  matter  how  occupied  or  full  of  distracting  work, 
will  prove  much  of  a  hindrance  ;  such  a  one  has  learned 
how  to  ride  on  the  waves  of  worldly  care  and  not  to  be  engulfed, 
by  them,  he  refuses  to  put  himself  out  or  be  totally  absorbed 
in  things  which  have  only  a  fleeting  interest ;  but  it  is  not 
so  with  the  beginner  in  the  spiritual  life.  Overwork  has 
broken  down  not  a  few  weakly  bodies  but  has  ruined  far 
more  souls,  drying  up  if  not  destroying  all  love  for  prayer 
and  the  things  of  God,  leaving  the  wreck  of  many  a  '  spoiled 
saint '  strewn  on  the  road  of  life. 

"A  heavy  responsibility  rests  on  the  shoulders  of  those 


PRAYER  211 

who  heap  an  impossible  burden  on  the  shoulders  of  the 
'  willing  horse/  more  anxious  for  the  material  success 
of  their  particular  charitable  undertaking  than  for  the 
spiritual  progress  of  those  whom  God  has  entrusted  to 
their  care."  (1916.) 


(8.)  MORTIFICATION. 

It  will  be  useful  to  record  here  some  sentences  conveying 
Fr.  Doyle's  advice  to  many  different  correspondents  on  the 
subject  of  penance  In  this  matter  he  always  laid  stress  on 
mortification  of  the  will,  especially  concerning  habitual 
faults.  At  times  he  could  put  this  very  bluntly.  Thus  a 
religious  who  was  rather  addicted  to  criticism  and  comment 
asked  him  to  recommend  her  some  special  acts  of  self-denial 
to  be  practised  at  table.  "  I  recommend  you,  my  dear 
Sister,"  he  replied,  "  to  put  a  little  mustard  on  your  tongue  !  " 
So  while  he  firmly  inculcated  asceticism,  he  was  by  no  means 
a  fanatic  for  bodily  penance.  The  following  quotations  will 
clearly  prove  his  gentleness,  thoughtfulness,  and  prudence. 
"  He  saved  others,  himself  he  cannot  save."  (5.  Matthew 
27.  42.)  Is  there  not  a  sense  in  which  this  is  true,  not  only 
of  Christ,  but  of  His  saints  ? 

(A).  "  I  am  glad  you  wrote  to  me  for  I,  at  least,  can  under 
stand  exactly  what  you  are  suffering ;  it  is  really  a  question 
of  nerves,  not  of  soul.  You  arc  run  down  like  an  old  fiddle 
string,  hence  you  can  get  no  sweet  music  out  of  yourself, 
try  as  you  may.  Now,  my  child,  don't  be  troubled  or  uneasy, 
imagining  God  is  displeased  with  you  or  that  you  are  abusing 
grace.  For  a  little  while  give  yourself  all  the  rest.,  relaxation 
and  indulgence  you  can ;  there  is  to  be  no  penance,  few 
spiritual  duties,  except  Mass  and  Communion,  and  you  are 
just  to  do  like  a  little  child  whatever  your  superiors  tell 
you,  read  story  books,  etc. ;  rest  and  riot  is  to  be  your  pro 
gramme  just  now.  When  the  old  nerves  get  a  bit  settled, 
you  will  run  ahead  like  a  giant  to  sanctity.  I  am  afraid 
you  must  make  up  your  mind  for  fits  of  depression  from  time 
to  time,  but  that,  too,  will  pass  when  you  become  more 


212  FATHER   WILLIAM   DOYLE,   S.J 

your  old  self  I  shall  pray  for  you  and  I  know  you  will  do 
the  same  when  you  get  good  again,  but  not  before  !  " 
(May,  1912.) 

(B).  "  It  ought  to  encourage  you  to  feel  the  desire  for 
penance  growing  in  your  soul.  After  all  is  it  not  a  mockery 
to  call  ourselves  the  spouses  of  a  crucified  Love  if  our  lives 
are  not  to  some  extent  crucified  also  ?  You  need  to  be 
careful  in  the  matter  of  privation  of  sleep  more  than  in  other 
things,  but  let  there  be  no  limit  to  interior  mortification." 

(C).  "  Every  little  victory  in  the  matter  of  food  is  a  real 
triumph,  for  this  is  a  real  test  of  generosity.  You  will  find 
many  persons  given  to  prayer,  works  of  zeal,  penance,  but 
most  seem  to  fly  from  the  denial  of  their  appetite.  '  My 
health,  Father  ;  the  greater  glory  of  God,  etc.'  St  Francis 
de  Sales  used  to  say,  '  Unless  you  deny  your  appetite,  you 
will  never  be  a  saint ' — a  mighty  saying  !  " 

(D).  "  To  stay  on  your  feet  when  you  have  a  bad  headache 
may  be  even  heroic  and  is  not  likely  to  injure  you  in  any 
way.  What  a  love  the  saints  all  had  for  suffering  !  There 
must  be  something  in  it." 

(E).  "I  want  you  to  give  up  all  corporal  penance  and 
to  take  for  your  particular  examen  '  self-denial  in  little 
things '  Make  ten  acts  for  each  examen,  and  the  more 
trivial  they  are  the  better,  so  you  will  do  twenty  a  day." 
(January,  1912.) 

(F).  "  I  believe  strongly  in  corporal  penance  as  a 
means  to  the  end.  But  a  denial  of  your  own  will  often 
costs  more  than  a  hundred  strokes  of  the  discipline.  To 
interior  penance  you  need  not,  and  must  not,  put  any  limit."1 
(February,  1912.) 

(G).  "  If  you  are  not  yet  strong  enough  to  seek 
humiliations,  just  accept  the  little  reverses  that  come.  When 
you  say  or  do  awkward  things,  give  them  to  our  Lord  and 

I. — "  We  have  nothing- of  our  own  but  our  will,"  says  the  Cur£  of  Ars.  "It 
is  the  only  thing-  which  God  has  so  placed  in  our  own  power  that  we  can  make 
an  offering  of  it  to  Him.  Thus  we  may  be  assured  that  a  single  act  of 
renunciation  of  the  will  is  more  pleasing  to  God  than  a  fast  of  thirty  days."- 
A.  Monnin,  Life  of  the  B.  Curt  d'Ars,  p.  251.  "Oh  how  I  love  those  little 
mortifications  which  are  seen  by  no  one,  such  as  to  rise  a  quarter  of  an  hour 
earlier  or  to  rise  a  few  moments  in  the  night  for  prayer  !  "  (ibid.  p.  97). 


MORTIFICATION  213 

tell    Him    you    are    glad    of    them.      Say :    'All    these  are 
humiliations,  so  they  must  be  good  for  me.'  ' 

(H).  "  The  big  penance  must  be  the  joyful  embracing, 
for  the  love  of  suffering  Jesus,  the  many  little  hard  and 
painful  things  which  come  to  you  hourly.  Take  them 
all  from  His  hand  sweetly,  trying  to  seek  the  unpleasant 
things  and  the  hard  disagreeable  things  ;  and  keep  hammering 
away  at  the  tiny  acts  of  self-denial.  This  is  the  goal  to  aim 
at  :  I  am  never  to  do  a  thing  I  like.  Don't  try  to  do  that 
at  present — it  might  easily  dishearten  and  crush  you — but 
keep  it  always  in  view." 

(I).  "  I  do  not  want,  in  fact  I  forbid  you,  to  be  imprudent 
in  the  matter  of  corporal  penances.  But,  my  dear  child,  if 
you  let  a  whole  fortnight  go  by  without  any  self-inflicted 
pain,  can  you  honestly  look  Jesus  in  the  face  and  say,  '  I 
am  like  to  Him  ?  ' 

(J).  "I  must  warn  you  against  the  danger  of  wishing  to 
go  too  fast  or  to  do  too  much  at  first.  You  must  begin 
humbly  and  build  up — that  is,  increase  your  penances  by 
degrees,  otherwise  you  might  be  very  generous  for  a  short 
time,  then  get  tired  and  give  up  all.  As  a  rule  do  not  make 
any  penance  a  great  burden — it  is  better  to  discontinue  it 
if  it  becomes  such — nor  do  anything  excessive  or  continued 
very  long." 

(K)  '  Your  desire  for  penance  is  an  excellent  sign,  and 
this  in  spite  of  what  X  said.  But  have  a  fixed  amount  to 
be  done  each  day  and  do  not  be  doing  it  in  fits  and  starts. 
Anything  like  what  you  call  '  frenzy  '  ought  to  be  suspected 
and  resisted." 

(L).  "  In  urging  you  to  be  generous,  I  wish  you  at  the 
same  time  to  be  sensible.  Keep  in  mind  these  two  rules, 
(i)  If  after  honest  trial  you  find  anything  is  really  injurious 
or  hampers  your  work,  it  must  be  abandoned.  (2)  Be  on 
your  guard  lest  the  body  be  too  much  oppressed  and  the 
spirit  take  harm,  as  says  wise  Ignatius.1  Everything  is  not 
for  everyone,  nor  must  you  undertake  too  much  in  the 
beginning."  (1912.) 

I  — "  It  is  not  good  that  anyone  should  be  so  loaded  with  bodily  work 
that  the  spirit  is  oppressed  and  the  body  suffers  harm." — Summarium  Con- 
stitutionumt  47. 


214  FATHER   WILLIAM  DOYLE,   SJ. 


CHAPTER  IX. 

MILITARY  CHAPLAIN 

(1916) 

has  hitherto  been  nothing  outwardly  remarkable 
I  in  Fr.  Doyle's  life.  Hence  his  biography  has  largely 
consisted  in  a  study  of  his  spiritual  ideals  and  of  those 
interior  strivings  and  hidden  virtues  which  were  mostly 
unknown  even  to  those  with  whom  he  lived.  But  now 
there  comes  a  phase  in  his  life  which  can  be  esteemed,  not 
only  by  those  who  know  the  inner  springs  of  action,  but 
also  by  such  as  measure  worth  by  external  achievement.  It 
is  only  when  the  life  which  was  hidden  in  religious  houses 
and  expressed  in  the  ordinary  activities  of  a  missioner,  is 
transferred  to  dug-out  and  trench  and  is  seen  amid  the  reek 
and  din  of  battle,  that  most  people  will  appreciate  greatness 
of  soul.  There  is  herein  a  further  advantage.  Many  who 
read  the  chapters  on  Fr.  Doyle's  interior  life  and  morti 
fications  will  be  inclined  to  picture  him  as  a  dour  austere 
individual  in  whom  the  sources  of  human  feelings  and  genuine 
affection  had  been  dried  up.  And,  on  the  other  hand,  they 
who  knew  him  only  as  a  military  chaplain,  saw  indeed  his 
wonderful  geniality  and  helpfulness,  but  could  hardly  suspect 
the  inner  drama  of  his  soul,  his  mystic  immolation  and 
unceasing  recollection.  Now  it  is  precisely  the  juxtaposition 
of  these  two  aspects  which  is  necessary  in  order  to  judge 
Fr.  Doyle's  character  as  a  whole  and  to  see  whence  heroism 
comes  and  whither  holiness  leads.  The  events  of  the  last 
year  and  a  half  of  his  life  will,  therefore,  be  recounted  more 
in  detail.  This  is  fortunately  possible  with  the  aid  of  the 
long  letters  which  he  regularly  sent  to  his  Father,  supple 
mented  by  a  few  more  intimate  notes  and  jottings.  This 
correspondence  was,  of  course,  never  intended  for  publication ; 
it  is  therefore  the  more  interesting  biographically.  Its  direct 
and  homely  language  is  far  more  eloquent  than  any  attempt 
at  studied  composition.  For  we  have  not  only  a  vivid 
picture  of  what  warfare  really  means  but  also  the  accurate 
transcript  of  one  man's  actual  thoughts  and  deeds. 


THE   GREAT  ADVENTURE  215 


(i.)  THE  GREAT  ADVENTURE. 

"  I  used  to  discuss  with  my  brother,"  says  S.  Teresa,1 
"  how  we  could  become  martyrs.  We  made  up  our  minds 
to  start  together,  begging  our  way  for  the  love  of  God,  to 
the  country  of  the  Moors,  so  that  we  might  be  beheaded 
there."  The  youthful  crusaders  were,  however,  ignominiously 
brought  back  to  Avila  by  their  uncle  ;  but  the  spirit  of  this 
great  adventure  remained.  Rodrigo  died  as  a  captain  in 
the  conquest  of  La  Plata  ;  Teresa  learnt  that  pati  was  harder 
than  won'.  He  whose  life  we  are  here  chronicling  had  a 
double  answer  to  his  childish  ambition  for  martyrdom, 
Teresa's  life  and  Rodrigo's  death.  "  Did  I  ever  tell  you," 
he  asked  in  an  intimate  letter,  5th  November,  1914,  "  did 
I  ever  tell  you  that  even  as  a  child  I  was  convinced  that 
one  day  God  would  give  me  the  grace  of  martyrdom  ?  When 
quite  small  I  read  and  re-read  every  martyr's  life  in  the 
twelve  volumes  of  Butler's  Lives  of  the  Saints,  and  longed 
and  prayed  to  be  a  martyr,  and  I  have  often  done  so  ever 
since.  As  years  went  on,  the  desire  grew  in  intensity,  and 
even  now  the  sufferings  of  the  martyrs,  their  pictures,  and 
everything  connected  with  their  death,  have  a  strange 
fascination  for  me  and  help  me  much.  When  I  was  ordained 
I  begged  for  the  foreign  missions,  never  doubting  that  my 
request  would  be  granted.  But  it  was  not  to  be,  and  never 
can  be  now  ;  and  I  was  left  wondering  why  God  should 
have  put  that  intense  longing  into  my  heart  when  He  did 
not  mean  to  gratify  it.  Then  slowly  light  came.  He  did 
ask  martyrdom,  but  not  in  the  way  I  thought,  a  martyrdom 
far  longer  and  a  thousand  times  more  painful  and  crucifying, 
a  living  martyrdom  and  a  ceaseless  crucifixion.  So  strong 
and  clear  is  this  light,  especially  recently,  that  I  never  pray 
now  :  '  Lord,  what  will  You  have  me  do  ?  '  but,  '  Lord, 
help  me  to  do  what  I  know  You  wish.'  Yes,  Jesus  is  right 
when  He  says  :  '  I  have  told  him  over  and  over  again  what 
I  want,  but  he  will  not  give  it  to  Me.'  That  is  what  is  breaking 
my  heart,  as  I  feel  it  is  breaking  His,  the  pleading  for  a  life 

I. — Life  i.   4. 


2i6  FATHER  WILLIAM  DOYLE,   S.J. 

of  absolute  annihilation,  and  at  times  what  I  can  only  call 
my  powerlessness  to  give  it ;  want  of  love,  of  generosity, 
is  there,  I  know,  but  these  words  do  not  really  express  my 
state.  If  He  does  mean  me  to  lead  the  life  which  is  sketched 
out  in  my  mind,  then  I  can  understand  why  He  lets  me 
feel  my  utter  misery  and  powerlessness,  so  that  I  may  see 
clearly  that  it  must  be  all  the  work  of  His  grace.  Jesus  is 
very  gentle  but  very  firm  with  me.  For  some  years  past 
He  has  shown  me  that  I  must  not  shrink  from  what  He 
asks.  He  is  ever  beside  me  urging  me  in  the  same  direction — 
you  know  where  His  divine  Face  was  turned  so  constantly 
during  life  and  at  its  close.  I  am  not  afraid  of  sacrifice  ; 
He  has  given  me  an  intense  love  of  suffering  and  humiliation. 
But  why,  oh  !  why  did  He  make  me  so  wretchedly  weak 
that  I  cannot  take  one  step  if  His  strong  arm  is  not 
around  me  ?  " 

Still  he  did  not  abandon  the  hope  of  laying  down  his  life 
for  Christ.  Four  days  later  he  says  in  another  letter  :  "  What 
I  am  going  to  tell  you  now  may  pain  you.  I  have  volunteered 
for  the  Front  as  Military  Chaplain,  though  perhaps  I  may 
never  be  sent.  Naturally  I  have  little  attraction  for  the 
hardship  and  suffering  the  life  would  mean  ;  but  it  is  a 
glorious  chance  of  making  the  '  ould  body  '  bear  something 
for  Christ's  dear  sake.  However,  what  decided  me  in  the 
end  was  a  thought  that  flashed  into  my  mind  when  in  the 
chapel :  the  thought  that  if  I  get  killed  I  shall  die  a  martyr 
of  charity  and  so  the  longing  of  my  heart  will  be  gratified. 
This  much  my  offering  myself  as  chaplain  has  done  for  me  : 
it  has  made  me  realise  that  my  life  may  be  very  short  and 
that  I  must  do  all  I  can  for  Jesus  now." 

A  similar  thought  occurs  in  his  private  diary  under  next 
day's  date,  (loth  November,  1914)  :  "  My  offering  myself 
as  war  chaplain  to  the  Provincial  has  had  a  wonderful  effect 
on  me.  I  long  to  go  and  shed  my  blood  for  Jesus  and,  if 
He  wills  it,  to  die  a  martyr  of  charity.  The  thought  that 
at  any  moment  I  may  be  called  to  the  Front,  perhaps  to  die, 
has  roused  a  great  desire  to  do  all  I  can  while  I  have  life. 
I  feel  great  strength  to  make  any  sacrifice  and  little  difficulty 
in  doing  so.  I  may  not  have  long  now  to  prove  my  love 
for  Jesus." 


THE   GREAT  ADVENTURE  217 

He  waited  a  year  before  the  sacrifice  was  asked  of  him. 
On  i5th  November,  1915,  he  makes  this  brief  entry : 
"  Received  my  appointment  from  the  War  Office  as  chaplain 
to  the  1 6th  Division.  Fiat  voluntas  tua."  "  What  the 
future  has  in  store  I  know  not,"  he  writes  to  a  correspondent 
on  the  same  day ;  "  but  I  have  given  Jesus  all  to  dispose 
of  as  He  sees  best.  My  heart  is  full  of  gratitude  to  Him 
for  giving  me  this  chance  of  being  really  generous  and  of 
leading  a  life  that  will  be  truly  crucified."  How  hard  he 
found  this  may  be  gathered  from  some  words  written  a 
fortnight  later  on  the  eve  of  his  starting  for  Whitely  Camp, 
Surrey  :  "A  last  farewell,  for  I  shall  be  far  away  when  you 
receive  this.  My  via  crucis  is  nearly  over  ;  but  only  in 
heaven  will  you  know  how  I  have  suffered  all  this  week. 
It  is  all  for  Him  and  I  do  not  regret  it ;  but  He  filled  my 
cup  of  bitterness  this  evening  when  I  left  my  darling  old 
Father.  Thank  God,  at  last  I  can  say,  I  have  given  Him 
all ;  or  rather  He  has  taken  all  from  me.  May  His  sweet 
will  be  done."  He  seems  to  have  had  a  premonition  of 
death,  as  indeed  had  several  who  knew  his  fearless  zeal. 
"  I  want  you  to  know,"  he  writes  on  I4th  January,  1916, 
"  what  I  went  through  by  volunteering  for  the  Front.  God 
made  me  feel  with  absolute  certainty — I  suppose  to  increase 
the  merit  of  the  offering — that  I  shall  be  killed.  The  struggle 
was  hard,  for  I  did  not  want  to  die  ;  not  indeed  that  I  am 
afraid  of  death,  but  the  thought  that  I  could  never  again 
do  more  for  God  or  suffer  for  Him  in  heaven  made  the  sacrifice 
too  bitter  for  words."  In  the  same  strain  he  writes  from 
Bordon  Camp,  Hants,  a  week  later  to  a  dear  friend  who 
was  anxious  for  him  :  "He  knows  what  is  best  for  all  of 
us.  Would  it  not  be  more  perfect  then  not  to  pray  for  my 
safety  but  rather  that  His  designs  may  be  carried  out  ? 
.  .  .  I  have  only  one  regret  now  that  death  is  such  a 
distinct  possibility — that  I  have  done  so  little  for  our  Blessed 
Lord  and  His  glory.  But  it  consoles  me  much  to  remember 
that  one  can  still  make  up  by  a  loving  generosity  for  a  past 
which  is  beyond  recall." 

A  few  letters  survive  to  tell  us  his  impressions  of  camp 
life.  On  i5th  December,  1915,  he  writes  :  "  I  cannot  say 
I  am  quite  in  love  with  camp  life,  which  in  many  respects 


2i8  FATHER  WILLIAM   DOYLE,  SJ. 

is  very  repellent.  But  even  in  these  disagreeable  things 
there  is  a  joy  and  secret  pleasure,  since  it  means  all  the  more 
merit  and,  let  us  hope,  a  richer  harvest  of  souls.  My  eyes 
have  been  opened  still  more  to  the  awful  godlessness  of  the 
world  and  the  need,  the  immense  need,  there  is  for  us  who 
owe  so  much  to  our  Blessed  Lord  to  try  and  make  up  to  Him 
for  all  this  by  greater  love  and  generosity.  It  will  never 
equal,  I  fear,  the  worldly  generosity  of  these  men.  For 
example,  this  morning  a  regiment  marched  out  of  camp 
at  5  a.m.  in  torrents  of  rain  merely  for  exercise.  When 
they  return  to-night,  they  will  dry  their  wet  underclothing 
by  sleeping  in  them  !  " 

On  New  Year's  Day  Fr.  Doyle  with  his  regiment  (8th  Royal 
Irish  Fusiliers)  moved  from  Whitely  Camp  to  Bordon  Camp. 
The  change  was  welcome  to  him  for  the  reason  given  in  the 
following  letter  four  days  later1  :  "  Before  I  thank  you  for 
your  letter  which  was  doubly  welcome  in  my  exile,  I  want 
to  tell  you  the  New  Year's  gift  our  Lord  gave  me.  We  had 
an  awful  time  of  storm  and  rain  coming  over  here,  but 
the  first  thing  I  saw  on  reaching  the  barrack  square  was  a 
hut  marked  R.C.  Church.  I  took  it  for  granted  that  it  was 
just  the  usual  hut  set  apart  for  Sunday  Mass,  but  on  trying 
the  door  you  can  imagine  my  delight  to  find  a  small  but 
beautifully  furnished  chapel  with  a  lamp  burning  before  the 
altar,  which  made  my  heart  leap  with  joy. 

"  I  felt  as  if  all  the  hardships  of  my  life  had  vanished, 
for  I  had  found  Him  again  who  makes  the  hard  things  easy 
and  the  bitter  things  sweet.  What  did  anything  matter 
now  since  I  could  go  and  tell  Him  all  about  it  and  get  help 
and  consolation  from  Jesus.  I  really  think  that  this  month's 
privation  of  the  Blessed  Sacrament  has  taught  me  the  true 
value  of  the  Tabernacle.  But  His  goodness  did  not  stop 
here  ;  the  other  priest  who  had  the  key  gave  it  to  me  without 
my  even  suggesting  it,  so  I  can  go  to  Him  at  any  hour  of 
the  day  or  night  if  I  want  to — do  you  think  I  shall  ?  Is 
He  not  good  to  have  put  the  little  chapel  where  He  did,  as 
it  might  have  been  in  any  other  part  of  the  camp,  miles 
away?  I  do  not  think  there  is  a  happier  man  in  England 

I. — See  also  page  109. 


THE   GREAT  ADVENTURE 

than  I  to-day.  I  am  writing  this,  sitting  on  a  piece  of  wood- 
no  chairs  in  our  quarters.  There  are  about  1,200  Catholics 
in  our  brigade  now.  I  get  a  few  '  big  fish  '  each  evening." 

The  reference  to  soul-fishing  will  remind  us  that  his  life 
was  by  no  means  contemplative  at  this  time,  except  in  so 
far  as  he  was  able  to  be  Martha  by  day  and  Mary  by  night. 
His  work  was  very  arduous  and  grew  more  so  as  the  day 
of  departure  drew  near.  It  was  the  last  great  chance  for 
the  soul  of  many  an  Irish  lad.  '  There  is  nothing  like  the 
prospect  of  a  German  shell,"  wrote  Fr.  Doyle,  "  for  putting 
the  fear  of  God  into  one  ;  and  many  an  old  rooster  whom 
no  mission  ever  moved  has  been  blown  out  of  his  nest  by  the 
news  of  our  departure."  "  We  are  having  desperate  work 
these  days,"  he  told  a  friend  (i4th  February,  1916).  "  The 
good  God  is  simply  pouring  out  His  grace  on  these  poor 
fellows  and  reconciling  them  before  they  die.  It  has  to 
be  quick  work,  no  time  for  '  trimmings.'  I  have  positively 
a  pain  in  my  arm  giving  Absolution  and  Communions  in 
the  morning.  I  was  able  to  manage  Exposition  all  day 
last  Sunday,  which  brought  in  many  an  erring  sheep.  I 
realize  that  from  this  on  my  life  will  be  a  martyrdom  in  a 
way  I  never  thought  of.  I  have  got  to  love  my  brave  lads 
almost  like  my  own  brothers  and  sisters.  They  are  so  wild 
and  reckless,  and  at  the  same  time  so  full  of  faith  and  love 
of  God  and  His  Blessed  Mother.  Yet  soon  I  shall  have  to 
see  the  majority  of  them  blown  to  bits,  torn  and  mangled 
out  of  shape.  Our  Brigade  is  leaving  to-morrow  for  France. 
I  am  waiting  till  Friday  night,  so  as  to  get  in  all  the  con 
fessions  I  can.  Do  pray  I  may  be  able  to  say  daily  Mass. 
I  shall  carry  everything  necessary  on  my  back,  and  so  may 
manage  the  Holy  Sacrifice  in  the  train.  Whilst  here  I  have 
given  Jesus  two  things  which  He  often  asked,  but  which 
I  refused  through  '  prudence  and  a  fear  of  interfering  with 
important  work/ — a  very  old  trick  of  the  devil,  which  my 
eyes  are  open  to  see  now.  The  first  was  sometimes  to  fast 
strictly  all  day — once  I  did  a  hard  day's  work  ending  up 
with  a  fifteen  miles'  march  on  a  cup  of  tea.  The  second 
was  to  spend  the  whole  night  in  prayer.  Including  con 
fessions  I  was  able  one  night  to  pass  eleven  hours  with  Jesus — • 
telling  Him  every  five  minutes  I  was  going  after  five  more." 


220  FATHER   WILLIAM   DOYLE,   S.J. 


(2.)  EN  ROUTE. 

He  received  unexpected  orders  from  the  General  to  proceed 
overseas  on  Thursday,  iyth  February.  Half  an  hour  before 
starting  he  wrote  to  his  father  :  "  I  set  out  to  face  the  future 
with  a  certain  amount  of  trepidation.  .  .  .  Strange  to 
say,  I  have  not  the  smallest  anxiety  about  the  possible 
dangers  of  warfare,  not  so  great  for  me  as  for  others,  but 
I  do  dread  the  horrors  of  the  battlefield  which  all  say  no 
words  can  picture.  Still  it  is  a  consolation  to  know  what 
a  comfort  the  mere  presence  of  a  priest  is  to  both  officers 
and  men  alike.  They  are  one  and  all  going  to  face  their 
duty  with  the  joy  of  heart  which  comes  from  a  clean 
conscience  ;  many  of  them  had  not  been  to  confession  for 
over  twenty  years."  Of  the  crossing  itself  he  wrote  to  his 
father  a  brief  description  which  indirectly  reveals  some 
characteristic  traits.  One  passage  may  be  quoted  :  '  The 
moon  was  surrounded  by  a  magnificent  halo  or  crown,  which 
I  promptly  bagged  for  myself.  I  was  fortunately  able  to 
get  some  tea  on  shore,  for  though  they  served  us  out  with 
lifebelts,  nothing  in  the  shape  of  dinner  or  rations  came 
along.  There  were  only  a  few  bunks  which  I  left  to  the 
other  officers,  and  as  there  was  no  place  to  sleep,  except 
the  stoke  hole,  which  I  was  not  having  this  journey,  I  picked 
a  comfortable  ?  corner  on  deck  and  prepared  for  a  snooze, 
when  alas  !  down  came  the  rain.  Providence  however  came 
to  my  rescue  :  the  second  engineer  passing  by  very  kindly 
offered  me  a  share  of  his  cabin,  and  I  slept  like  a  top  on  the 
settee.  He  was  awfully  kind  to  me,  even  offering  me  a 
share  of  his  bunk,  and  this  morning  he  had  hot  coffee  and 
buns  ready  when  I  awoke  ;  but  as  I  was  hoping  to  be  able 
to  celebrate  Mass  on  shore,  I  had  to  postpone  that  luxury. 
At  present  there  seems  little  prospect  of  either  Mass  or 
breakfast,  as  it  is  now  nine  and  we  have  been  lying  off  shore 
since  four  this  morning.  11.30  a.m.  Just  landed.  Seeing 
there  was  no  chance  for  Mass,  I  rooted  up  a  Chinaman  and 
secured  a  welcome  cup  of  tea  ;  he  brought  me  also  a  plate 
of  cold  liver  and  potatoes  likewise  cold — a  dish  to  tempt 
one's  appetite  after  a  channel  crossing  !  " 


EN   ROUTE  22* 

After  a  tiresome  day  at  Havre,  the  rain  never  for  a  moment 
ceasing,  the  men  entrained  for  their  base.  And  after  twenty- 
one  and  a  half  hours  in  the  train  there  was  a  march  of  twelve 
miles.  "  I  shall  not  try  to  describe  that  march,"  writes 
Fr.  Doyle,  "  but  you  can  gather  what  it  was,  with  strong 
big  men  falling  down  now  and  then  from  sheer  exhaustion. 
Under  other  circumstances  I  should  not  have  minded  the 
tramp,  but  I  was  near  the  end  of  my  tether  and  was  carrying 
a  great  coat,  pack  and  water-bottle."  After  about  two 
hours'  plodding,  an  officer  seeing  Fr.  Doyle's  exhaustion 
induced  him  to  get  on  an  artillery  limber.  It  was  only 
when  the  waggons  stopped  at  2  a.m.,  that  he  discovered 
he  was  separated  from  the  infantry  and  his  regiment  had 
gone  to  its  unknown  destination  ;  he  was  lost.  After  three 
hours'  sleep  under  a  cart,  he  walked  on  for  a  couple  of  miles 
and  found  himself  in  a  good-sized  town.  Though  except 
for  two  sandwiches  he  had  not  tasted  food  for  thirty-five 
hours,  he  deferred  breakfast  till  he  could  say  Mass.  Then 
finding  there  were  no  passenger  trains,  he  boarded  a  slowly 
moving  goods  train  and  thus,  sitting  on  uncomfortably 
explosive  shells,  he  was  taken  a  good  way  on  his  journey. 
Finally  a  Catholic  officer  whom  he  chanced  to  meet,  motored 
him  to  his  destination — Amettes,  the  birthplace  of  St. 
Benedict  Joseph  Labre,  to  whom,  since  his  college  days,  he 
had  a  special  devotion.  Fr.  Doyle  had  a  comfortable  room 
in  the  little  convent.  As  he  had  a  bad  chill  as  the  result 
of  his  three  nights'  exposure,  he  was  lucky  to  have  come 
under  the  kindly  care  of  the  good  sisters. 

On  26th  February  the  men  left  their  comparatively  snug 
quarters  and  began  moving  in  easy  stages  towards  the 
trenches.  The  grim  reality  of  war  grew  nearer. 

(3.)   CURE  OF  MAZINGARBE. 

"  I  am  suffering  much  in  every  way,"  wrote  Fr.  Doyle  in 
a  private  letter  on  5th  March,  1916,  "  most  of  all,  perhaps, 
from  sheer  fatigue.  As  regards  food  and  lodging  I  am  not 
badly  off,  but  the  discomforts  of  the  life  would  be  long  to 
tell.  However,  like  S.  Paul  I  can  say  that  I  superabound 


222  FATHER   WILLIAM   DOYLE,   SJ. 

with  joy  in  all  my  tribulations  ;  for  I  know  that  they  come 
from  God's  hand  and  that  they  are  working  out  some  plan 
of  His  in  my  soul.  What  a  joy  to  be  able  to  offer  oneself 
entirely,  even  life  itself,  each  morning  at  Mass,  and  to  think 
that  perhaps  before  evening  He  may  have  accepted  the 
offering  !  "  "  Though  the  life  is  perhaps  the  very  last  I 
would  choose  humanly  speaking,"  he  wrote  in  another  letter 
{i5th  March),  "  I  am  ever  so  happy  and  contented,  because 
I  know  I  am  doing  what  God  wants  and  there  is  much  good 
work  to  be  done." 

It  was  not  long  before  he  had  an  experience  of  real  danger. 
On  Sunday,  5th  March,  he  said  Mass  for  the  8th  Fusiliers. 
After  he  had  finished  (about  9  o'clock)  he  mounted  his  bicycle 
in  order  to  go  to  the  8th  Inniskillings,  of  whom  he  also  had 
charge,  and  say  Mass  at  eleven  for  them.  They  were 
stationed  four  miles  away  near  the  ruined  village  of 
Mazingarbe.  Fr.  Doyle  may  be  left  to  describe  his  adventure 
in  his  own  words. 

"  On  the  way  I  noticed  that  heavy  firing  was  going  on 
ahead,  but  it  was  only  when  I  reached  a  bend  in  the  road 
that  I  realized  the  enemy  were  actually  shelling  the  very 
spot  I  had  to  pass.  Some  soldiers  stopped  me,  saying  it 
was  dangerous  to  go  on.  At  the  moment  I  was  wondering 
what  had  become  of  the  side  of  a  vacant  house  which  had 
suddenly  vanished  in  a  cloud  of  smoke,  and  I  was  painfully 
aware  of  the  proximity  of  high  explosive  shells. 

"  Here  was  a  fix  !  I  knew  my  regiment  was  waiting  in 
the  village  for  Mass,  and  also  that  half  of  them  were  going 
to  the  trenches  that  afternoon  for  the  first  time  ;  if  I  did 
not  turn  up  they  would  lose  Confession  and  Holy  Com 
munion,  but  the  only  way  to  reach  them  was  by  the 
shell-swept  road.  What  really  decided  me  was  the  thought 
that  I  was  carrying  the  Blessed  Sacrament,  and  I  felt  that, 
having  our  Lord  Himself  with  me,  no  harm  could  possibly 
qome  to  me.  I  mounted  the  bicycle  and  faced  the  music. 
I  don't  want  you  to  think  me  very  brave  and  courageous, 
for  I  confess  I  felt  horribly  afraid  ;  it  was  my  baptism  of 
fire,  and  one  needs  to  grow  accustomed  to  the  sound  of 
bursting  shells.  Just  then  I  was  wishing  my  regiment  in 
Jericho  and  every  German  gun  at  the  bottom  of  the  Red 
Sea  or  any  other  hot  place. 


&etbune  o 

ks  /V//^ 
Maz/ngarbe  O 


O  ft 


10 


O  Peronne 


Map  showing  the  approximate  position  of  the  Western  Front  from  the 

<,.•!     t,»    tl,,-.    <r>mmo    rluf'iiirr   tlio    ^itf     li-,H",-,f"   T,M£, 


224  FATHER  WILLIAM  DOYLE,   S.J. 

"  Call  it  a  miracle  if  you  will,  but  the  moment  I  turned 
the  corner  the  guns  ceased  firing,  and  not  a  shell  fell  till  I 
was  safely  in  the  village  Church.  My  confidence  in  God's 
protection  was  not  misplaced.  Naturally  I  did  not  know 
this  was  going  to  happen,  and  it  was  anything  but  pleasant 
riding  down  the  last  stretch  of  road,  listening  for  the  scream 
of  the  coming  shell.  Have  you  ever  had  a  nightmare  in  which 
you  were  pursued  by  ten  mad  bulls,  while  the  faster  you 
tried  to  run,  the  more  your  feet  stuck  in  the  mud  ?  These 
were  just  my  feelings  as  I  pedalled  down  that  blessed  road 
which  seemed  to  grow  longer  and  longer  the  further  I  went. 

"At  last  I  turned  the  corner,  reached  the  Church,  and 
had  just  begun  Mass  when  down  came  the  hail  of  shells 
once  more.  One  or  two  must  have  burst  very  close,  judging 
by  the  way  the  walls  shook,  but  I  felt  quite  happy  and  quite 
ready  to  be  blown  from  the  altar,  for  I  saw  a  fine  plump 
Frenchwoman  just  behind  me  ;  she  might  have  been  killed, 
but  I  was  quite  safe ! 

"  I  mention  this  little  adventure  as  I  think  it  will  console 
you,  as  it  has  consoled  me,  showing  that  all  the  good  prayers 
are  not  in  vain,  and  that  this  is  a  happy  omen  of  God's  loving 
protection  from  all  dangers.  I  have  just  heard  that  one, 
at  least,  of  the  men  to  whom  I  gave  Holy  Communion  that 
morning  was  killed  the  same  night  in  the  trenches." 

The  cure  being  away  at  the  war,  Fr.  Doyle  regarded 
himself  as  priest  of  the  parish  and  was  able  to  act  as  such 
on  a  few  occasions.  Thus  one  evening  (gih  March)  he  heard 
quite  by  chance  that  an  old  woman  was  very  ill ;  he  gave 
her  the  last  Sacraments  and  she  died  almost  before  he  got 
home.  "  You  see  my  life  has  many  consolations,"  he  adds  ; 
"  and  it  is  just  as  well,  for  this  is  a  sad,  sad  war  of  which 
you  at  home  have  but  the  faintest  idea  ;  may  the  good 
God  end  it  soon." 

This  is  the  description  which  Fr.  Doyle  gave  of  some  of 
his  activities  on  Sunday,  igth  March. 

"  I  started  at  seven  in  the  morning  by  giving  Holy  Com 
munion  to  the  men  whose  Confessions  I  had  heard  the 
previous  evening,  a  goodly  number  I  am  glad  to  say.  This 
was  followed  by  a  number  of  Confessions  in  French  for  the 
townspeople  and  some  French  soldiers.  I  am  quite  ready 


CURE   OF  MAZINGARBE  225 

to  face  any  language  at  the  present  moment.  This  brought 
me  up  to  nine,  when  my  men  had  Mass  Parade. 

"  By  chance  the  whole  Regiment  were  in  the  village  which 
meant  of  course  that  the  Church  would  not  hold  them,  so 
I  had  arranged  for  Mass  in  the  open.  The  spot  I  selected 
was  a  large  courtyard  in  front  of  the  school — whereby  hangs 
a  tale.  Armed  with  the  Mayor's  permission  I  approached 
the  schoolmaster  for  his  sanction,  and  I  must  say  found  him 
most  obliging  and  very  gracious,  even  helping  to  get  things 
ready.  It  was  only  afterwards  that  I  discovered  that  this 
man  was  a  red-hot  anti-clerical,  anti  everything  that  was 
good  in  fact,  quite  a  bad  lot,  so  that  my  request  was  about 
the  same  as  asking  the  Grand  Master  of  the  Orange  Lodge 
in  Belfast  for  permission  to  have  Mass  in  his  hall  !  He  was 
so  staggered,  I  suppose,  by  my  innocent  request  that  he 
could  not  find  words  to  refuse.  But  the  good  folk  of  the 
town  are  wild  with  delight  and  immensely  tickled  by  the 
idea  of  Mass  in  the  porch  of  his  school  above  all  people  ; 
needless  to  say,  they  have  rubbed  it  into  him  well. 

"  I  had  never  celebrated  Mass  in  the  open  before,  and  I 
think  the  men  were  as  much  impressed  as  I  was.  It  was  a 
glorious  morning  with  just  a  sufficient  spice  of  danger  to 
give  the  necessary  warlike  touch  to  the  picture  by  the  presence 
of  a  German  aeroplane  scouting  near  at  hand.  I  was  a 
wee  bit  anxious  lest  a  bomb  might  come  down  in  the  middle 
of  the  men,  but  I  fancy  our  unwelcome  visitor  had  quite 
enough  to  do,  dodging  the  shells  from  our  guns  which  kept 
booming  all  during  Mass  ;  besides  I  felt  confident  that  for 
once  our  guardian  angels  would  do  their  duty  and  protect 
us  all  till  Mass  was  over. 

'  When  I  finished  breakfast,  I  found  a  big  number  of  men 
waiting  for  Confession.  I  gave  them  Communion  as  well, 
though  they  were  not  fasting,  as  they  were  going  to  the 
trenches  that  evening  and  being  in  danger  of  death  could 
receive  the  Blessed  Sacrament  as  Viaticum.  It  was  the  last 
Communion  for  many  poor  fellows  who,  I  trust,  are  praying 
for  me  in  Heaven  now. 

"  Having  polished  off  all  who  came  to  the  Church,  I  made 
a  raid  on  the  men's  billets,  and  spent  a  few  hours  in  stables, 
barns,  in  fact  anywhere,  shriving  the  remainder  who  gladly 


226  FATHER  WILLIAM  DOYLE,   SJ. 

availed  themselves  of  the  chance  of  settling  up  accounts 
before  they  started  for  the  front.  The  harvest,  thank  God, 
was  good  and  consoling.  Just  before  they  marched  at  six 
in  the  evening,  I  gave  the  whole  regiment — the  Catholics, 
at  least — a  General  Absolution.  So  the  men  went  off  in  the 
best  of  spirits,  light  of  heart  with  the  joy  of  a  good  conscience. 
'  Good-bye,  Father,'  one  shouted,  '  we  are  ready  to  meet 
the  devil  himself  now ' — which  I  trust  he  did. 

"  I  dined  with  the  two  transport  officers  who  bring  up 
the  rations  and  ammunition  to  the  soldiers,  and  then  mounted 
my  horse  and  rode  up  to  Headquarters  at  the  communication 
trenches.  .  .  .  My  work  done,  I  mounted  again  and 
made  for  home.  It  was  rather  weird  riding  past  the  shattered 
houses  in  the  dark,  with  the  ping  of  a  stray  bullet  to  make 
you  uncomfortable,  while  every  few  minutes  a  brilliant 
star-shell  would  burst  overhead  and  the  guns  spat  viciously 
at  each  other.  ...  I  reached  my  billet  and  tumbled 
in  just  as  the  clock  struck  midnight." 

This  of  course  is  the  record  of  a  specially  strenuous  day. 
But  it  gives  us  a  good  idea  of  the  chaplain's  wonderful  energy 
and  devotedness.  He  was  proud  of  the  men  for  whom 
he  worked.  "  They  are  Ireally  a  fine  lot  of  fellows,"  he 
wrote  on  3ist  March  from  the  rest-billets,  "  and  make  a  good 
impression  on  the  people  wherever  they  go,  more  especially 
here  in  the  North  of  France,  the  mining  district,  where  most 
of  the  men  are  too  busy  washing  the  dirt  out  of  themselves 
on  Sunday  to  bother  about  much  else.  Hence  it  is  an  object 
lesson  to  the  parlez-vous  to  see  the  crowds  who  come  to 
Mass  and  Communion  daily  and  Benediction  in  the 
evening." 

(4.)   Loos. 

At  6  p.m.  the  whole  four  regiments  of  the  49th  Brigade 
left  their  quarters  in  Noeux-les-Mines  (near  Bethune)1  and 
went  forward  to  the  firing  line.  Up  to  this  time  half  remained 
behind  and  Fr.  Doyle  stayed  with  them,  as  practically  nothing 
could  be  done  in  the  trenches  themselves,  while  at  the  rear 

i. — See  map  p.  223. 


LOOS  227 

he  had  his  hands  full,  with  an  odd  visit  to  his  absent  men 
to  cheer  them  in  their  mud  and  slush.  On  this  occasion 
Fr.  Doyle  accompanied  the  men.  Nearly  all  had  been  to 
Holy  Communion  that  morning  or  the  morning  before  and 
they  now  received  General  Absolution.  The  town  of  Loos 
was  held  in  a  salient  and  as  the  road  to  it  was  commanded 
by  the  German  guns,  it  could  be  entered  only  at  night. 
"  Single  file,  no  smoking,"  came  the  order  as  the  danger 
zone  was  reached.  After  another  mile  came  a  second  order, 
"  Men  will  advance  by  twos,  twenty  paces  apart."  Stray 
bullets  were  buzzing  about,  fortunately  no  shells.  Suddenly 
down  the  line  came  the  command,  "  Every  man  lie  flat." 
The  road  was  being  swept  by  a  machine  gun.  After  the 
leaden  hail  had  stopped,  the  men  moved  on  again  into  the 
town — where  the  Staff  remained — and  then  out  to  man  the 
trenches.  That  night  Fr.  Doyle  slept  for  the  first  time 
in  a  dug-out. 

Next  morning,  which  he  notes  as  the  twenty-sixth 
anniversary  of  his  entrance  into  the  Society,  he  emerged 
to  view  the  havoc  and  ruin  of  what  was  once  a  town.  He 
discovered  a  tiny  wayside  chapel  of  Our  Lady  of  Consolation 
with  the  altar  still  standing ;  and  here  amid  the  inferno 
of  shot  and  shell  he  celebrated  Mass. 

That  afternoon  he  had  '  the  most  exciting  experience  of 
his  whole  life.'  The  doctor  and  himself  set  out  to  visit  the 
Field  Ambulance  Station  at  the  other  end  of  the  town,  where 
the  wounded  were  sent  at  night  from  the  Regimental  Aid 
Post.1  Without  knowing  it  they  walked  along  a  road  by 
broad  daylight  in  full  view  of  the  German  trenches  and 
escaped  only  by  a  miracle.  Fr.  Doyle  joined  some  officers 
in  the  cellar,  who  were  having  a  tea  party  enlivened  by  a 
gramaphone.  "  McCormack,"  says  Fr.  Doyle,  "  had  just 
finished  the  last  bars  of  'She  is  far  from  the  land/  which 
brought  back  old  memories,  when  suddenly  Bertha  Krupp 
opened  her  mouth  in  a  most  unladylike  way,  let  a  screech 
which  you  could  hear  in  Dublin,  and  spat  a  huge  shell  right 

I. — The  most  advanced  Red  Cross  position,  where  the  wounded  are  first 
brought  in  by  the  battalion  stretcher-bearers  and  where  they  are  cleared  by 
R.A.M.C.  men  to  the  Advanced  Dressing  Station.  The  chaplains  of  Irish 
regiments,  where  Catholics  were  so  numerous,  usually  stationed  themselves  in 
the  Regimental  Aid  Post.  See  also  p.  248. 


228  FATHER   WILLIAM   DOYLE,   S.J. 

into  our  courtyard."  For  half  an  hour  the  shells  kept  raining 
all  around  and  the  inmates  of  the  cellar  expected  each 
moment  to  be  their  last.  "As  we  went  home  in  the  dusk 
of  the  evening,"  writes  Fr.  Doyle,  "  I  came  to  the  conclusion 
that  there  are  worse  places  to  live  in  than  poor  old  Ireland 
and  also  that  I  had  had  quite  enough  thrills  for  one  day." 

It  was  not  to  be,  however,  for  still  another  adventure 
awaited  him.  On  returning,  he  found  that  a  dead  man  had 
been  brought  in  for  burial.  '  The  cemetery,  part  of  a  field, 
was  outside  the  town  in  the  open  country,  so  exposed  to 
shell  and  rifle  fire  that  it  could  not  be  approached  by  day. 
As  soon  as  it  was  dark  we  carried  the  poor  fellow  out  on  a 
stretcher,  just  as  he  had  fallen,  and  as  quietly  as  we  could 
began  to  dig  the  grave.  It  was  weird.  We  were  standing 
in  front  of  the  German  trenches  on  two  sides,  though  a  fair 
distance  away,  and  every  now  and  then  a  star-shell  went 
up  which  we  felt  certain  would  reveal  our  presence  to  the 
enemy.  I  put  my  ritual  in  the  bottom  of  my  hat  and  with 
the  aid  of  an  electric  torch  read  the  burial  service,  while 
the  men  screened  the  light  with  their  caps,  for  a  single  flash 
would  have  turned  the  machine  guns  on  us.  I  cannot  say 
if  we  were  seen  or  not,  but  all  the  time  bullets  came  whizzing 
by,  though  more  than  likely  stray  ones  and  not  aimed  at 
us.  Once  I  had  to  get  the  men  to  lie  down  as  things  were 
rather  warm  ;  but  somehow  /  felt  quite  safe,  as  if  the  dead 
soldier's  guardian  angel  was  sheltering  us  from  all  danger, 
till  the  poor  dust  was  laid  to  rest.  It  was  my  first  war  burial 
though  assuredly  not  my  last.  May  God  rest  his  soul  and 
comfort  those  left  to  mourn  him."1 

The  burials  soon  became  more  frequent,  and  Fr.  Doyle 
had  many  gruesome  experiences.  Thus  a  few  days  later 
two  bodies  fell  to  bits  when  lifted  off  the  stretcher  and  he 
had  to  shovel  the  remains  of  one  poor  fellow  into  the  grave— 
a  task  which  taxed  his  endurance.  On  ist  April  he  had 
a  further  vivid  experience  of  the  horrors  of  war. 

"  Taking  a  short  cut  across  country  to  our  lines  I  found 
myself  on  the  first  battle  field  of  Loos,  the  place  where  the 
French  had  made  their  attack.  For  some  reason  or  other 

i. — As  a  result  of  this  experience  Fr.  Doyle  at  once  learnt  the  burial  service 
off  by  heart. 


LOOS  229 

this  part  of  the  ground  has  not  been  cleared,  and  it  remains 
more  or  less  as  it  was  the  morning  after  the  fight.  I  had 
to  pick  my  steps,  for  numbers  of  unexploded  shells,  bombs 
and  grenades  lay  all  round.  The  ground  was  littered  with 
broken  rifles,  torn  uniforms,  packs,  etc.,  just  as  the  men 
had  flung  them  aside,  charging  the  German  trenches.  Almost 
the  first  thing  I  saw  was  a  human  head  torn  from  the  trunk, 
though  there  was  no  sign  of  the  body.  The  soldiers  had 
been  buried  on  the  spot  they  fell ;  that  is,  if  you  can  call 
burial,  hastily  throwing  a  few  shovelfuls  of  clay  on  the 
corpses  :  there  was  little  time,  I  fancy,  for  digging  graves, 
and  in  war  time  there  is  not  much  thought  or  sentiment 
for  the  slain.  As  I  walked  along,  I  wondered  had  they  made 
certain  each  man  was  really  dead.  One  poor  fellow  had 
been  buried,  surely,  before  the  breath  had  left  his  body, 
for  there  was  every  sign  of  a  last  struggle  and  one  arm  was 
thrust  out  from  its  shroud  of  clay.  A  large  mound  caught 
my  eye.  Four  pairs  of  feet  were  sticking  out,  one  a  German, 
judging  by  his  boots,  and  three  Frenchmen — friend  and  foe 
are  sleeping  their  long  last  sleep  in  peace  together.  They 
were  decently  covered  compared  with  the  next  I  saw ;  a 
handful  cf  earth  covered  the  wasted  body,  but  the  legs  and 
arms  and  head  were  exposed  to  view.  He  seemed  quite  a 
young  lad,  with  fair,  almost  golden,  hair.  'An  unknown 
soldier  '  was  all  the  rough  wooden  cross  over  him  told  me 
about  him  ;  but  I  thought  of  the  sorrowing  mother,  far 
away,  thinking  of  her  boy  who  was  '  missing/  and  hoping 
against  hope  that  he  might  one  day  come  back.  Thank 
God,  Heaven  one  day  will  reunite  them  both.  I  found  a 
shovel  near  at  hand,  and  after  a  couple  of  hours'  stiff  work 
was  able  to  cover  the  bodies  decently,  so  that  on  earth  at 
least  they  might  rest  in  peace." 

These  few  weeks  in  Loos  were  a  time  of  great  strain  ;  but, 
of  course,  there  were  intermissions.  After  three  days  and 
nights  in  the  front  trench  the  men  moved  back  again  for 
three  days  to  a  village  out  of  range  of  rifle  fire,  though  not 
immune  from  occasional  shells.  After  this  triduum  of  com 
parative  rest  they  moved  up  to  the  support  trench,  and  then 
three  days  later  back  once  more  in  Loos  where  sometimes 
the  Fusiliers  had  to  spend  nearly  a  week.  "  It  was  a 


230  FATHER  WILLIAM  DOYLE,   SJ. 

memorable  six  days  for  us  all,"  writes  Fr.  Doyle,  "  living 
day  and  night  literally  face  to  face  with  death  at  every 
moment.  When  I  left  my  dug-out  to  go  up  or  down  the 
street,  which  I  had  to  do  scores  of  times  daily.  I  never  knew 
if  I  should  reach  the  end  of  it  without  being  hit  by  a  bullet 
or  a  piece  of  shell ;  and  in  the  comparative  safety  of  the 
cellar,  at  meals  or  in  bed,  there  was  always  the  pleasant 
prospect  of  being  blown  to  bits  or  buried  alive  if  the  shell 
came  in  a  certain  direction.  The  life  was  a  big  strain  on  the 
nerves,  for  it  does  make  one  creepy — as  happened  to  myself 
yesterday — to  hear  the  rattle  of  shell  splinters  on  the  walls 
on  either  side  of  the  road,  almost  to  feel  the  thud  of  a  nice 
jagged  lump  right  behind  and  to  see  another  fragment  go 
hopping  off  the  road  a  few  yards  in  front.  Why,  Daniel  in 
the  lions'  den  had  a  gay  time  compared  to  a  walk  through 
the  main  street  of  Loos."  The  secret  of  his  confidence  can 
be  guessed  from  the  description  of  the  Cross  of  Loos  which 
he  saw  on  3rd  April.  "  I  had  an  opportunity,  a  rare  one, 
thanks  to  the  fog,  of  examining  closely  in  daylight  one  of 
the  wonders  of  the  war,  the  famous  Crucifix  or  Calvary  of 
Loos.  This  is  a  very  large  cross  standing  on  a  mound  in 
a  most  exposed  position,  the  centre  of  fierce  fighting.  One 
of  the  four  trees  standing  by  it  has  been  torn  up  by  a  shell, 
the  branches  of  the  others  smashed  to  bits,  a  tombstone 
at  its  feet  lies  broken  in  half  and  the  houses  on  either  side 
are  a  heap  of  ruins.  But  neither  cross  nor  figure  has  been 
touched.  I  looked  closely  and  could  not  see  even  one  bullet 
hole.  Surely  if  the  Almighty  can  protect  the  image  of  His 
Son,  it  will  be  no  great  difficulty  to  guard  His  priest  also, 
as  indeed  He  has  done  in  a  wonderful  way." 

Fr.  Doyle  was  cure  of  this  parish  of  trenches,  his  church 
being  his  dug-out  situated  in  the  support  trench  near  the 
doctor's  dressing  station.1  He  also  humorously  included 
innumerable  rats,  insects  and  vermin  among  his  parishioners  ! 
Of  his  men  he  was  really  proud.  "  Our  poor  lads  are  just 
grand,"  he  says.  "  They  curse  like  troopers  all  the  day, 
they  give  the  Germans  hell,  purgatory  and  heaven  all  combined 

i. — The  first  night  he  arrived  in  the  trenches  he  found  two  officers  in  the 
dug-out  intended  for  him.  "  But,"  he  adds  characteristically,  "  as  they  WITV 
leaving  next  day  I  did  not  care  to  evict  them."  So  he  slept  on  a  trench-board 
in  "an  unoccupied  glorified  rabbit-hole." 


LOOS  231 

at  night,  and  next  morning  come  kneeling  in  the  mud  for 
Mass  and  Holy  Communion  when  they  get  a  chance ;  and 
they  beam  all  over  with  genuine  pleasure  when  their  Padre 
comes  past  their  dug-out  or  meets  them  in  the  trench."  It 
may  be  added  that  he  was  often  in  the  front  trench  to 
encourage  and  bless  the  rain-sodden,  mudstained,  weary 
watchers.  On  Easter  Sunday,  23rd  April,  he  celebrated  his 
first  Mass  in  the  trenches.  He  had  quite  a  congregation, 
chiefly  of  officers,  as  the  men  were  unable  to  leave  their 
posts.  "  My  church  was  a  bit  of  a  trench,"  he  writes,  "the 
altar  a  pile  of  sandbags.  Though  we  had  to  stand  deep 
in  mud,  not  knowing  the  moment  a  sudden  call  to  arms 
would  come,  many  a  fervent  prayer  went  up  to  heaven 
that  morning." 

(5.)  A  GAS  ATTACK. 

On  the  evening  of  Wednesday,  26th  April,  the  Germans 
began  a  slight  bombardment  which  was  the  prelude  to  a 
formidable  attack.  It  was  Fr.  Doyle's  first  experience  of 
a  battle  and  proved  near  being  his  last.  Having  met  an 
officer  who,  though  only  slightly  scratched,  was  badly  shaken 
by  an  exploding  shell,  he  brought  him  to  his  dug-out,  tended 
him  and  made  him  sleep  in  his  own  bunk.  Later  on  when 
he  himself  tried  to  sleep,  he  found  he  could  not  do  so  as  the 
night  was  cold  and  he  had  given  up  his  own  blanket.  His 
subsequent  adventures  may  be  best  given  in  the  words  of 
his  own  vivid  narrative. 

"About  four  o'clock  the  thought  struck  me  that  it  would 
be  a  good  thing  to  walk  back  to  the  village  to  warm  myself 
and  say  an  early  Mass  for  the  nuns,  who  usually  have  to 
wait  hours  for  some  chaplain  to  turn  up.1  They  have  been 
very  kind  to  me,  and  I  was  glad  of  this  chance  of  doing 
this  little  service  to  them.  The  village  is  about  two  miles 
behind  our  trench,  in  such  a  position  that  one  can  leave 
cover  with  perfect  safety  and  walk  there  across  the  fields. 
As  I  left  the  trench  about  4.45,  the  sun  was  just  rising.  It 
was  a  perfect  morning  with  a  gentle  breeze  blowing.  Now 

i. — A  few  weeks  later  this  convent  was  utterly  destroyed. 


232  FATHER  WILLIAM   DOYLE,   S.J 

and  again  came  the  crack  of  a  rifle,  but  all  was  unusually 
calm  and  still :  little  did  I  think  of  the  deadly  storm  about 
to  burst  and  hurry  so  many  brave  men  into  eternity.  I 
had  just  reached  a  point  half  way  between  our  trenches 
and  the  village  when  I  heard  behind  me  the  deep  boom  of 
a  German  gun  quickly  followed  by  a  dozen  others.  In  a 
moment  our  gunners  replied  and  before  I  could  well  realize 
what  was  taking  place,  the  air  was  alive  with  shells.  At 
first  I  thought  it  was  just  a  bit  of  the  usual  '  good  morning 
greeting  '  and  that  after  ten  minutes'  artillery  '  strafe  '  all 
would  be  quiet  once  more.  But  I  soon  saw  this  was  a  serious 
business,  for  gun  after  gun,  and  battery  after  battery,  was 
rapidly  coming  into  action,  until  at  the  lowest  number  500 
guns  were  roaring  all  round  me.  It  was  a  magnificent  if 
terrifying  sight.  The  ground  fairly  shook  with  the  roar  of 
the  guns,  for  the  '  heavies  '  now  had  taken  up  the  challenge, 
and  all  round  the  horizon  I  could  see  the  clouds  of  smoke 
and  dust  from  the  bursting  shells  as  both  sides  kept  searching 
for  their  opponents'  hidden  cannon. 

"  There  I  stood  in  the  very  centre  of  the  battle,  the  one 
man  of  all  the  thousands  engaged  who  was  absolutely  safe, 
for  I  was  away  from  the  trenches,  there  were  no  guns  or 
troops  near  me  to  draw  fire,  and  though  tens  of  thousands 
of  shells  went  over  my  head,  not  even  a  splinter  fell  near 
me.  I  felt  that  the  good  God  had  quietly  '  dumped  '  me 
there  till  all  danger  had  passed. 

"After  a  while  seeing  that  this  heavy  shelling  meant  an 
attack  of  some  kind,  and  that  soon  many  a  dying  man  would 
need  my  help,  I  turned  round  and  made  my  way  towards 
the  ambulance  station.  As  I  approached  the  trenches  I 
noticed  the  smoke  from  the  bursting  shells,  which  was  hanging 
thickly  over  them  and  was  being  driven  towards  me  across 
the  fields.  For  once,  I  said  to  myself,  I  am  going  to  smell 
the  smoke  of  a  real  battle,  and  I  stepped  out  quite  gaily— 
the  next  moment  I  had  turned  and  was  running  back  for 
my  life — the  Germans  had  started  a  poison  gas  attack  which 
I  had  mistaken  for  shell  smoke,  and  I  had  walked  straight 
into  it  ! 

"After  about  20  yards  I  stopped  to  see  what  was  to  be 
done,  for  I  knew  it  was  useless  to  try  and  escape  by  running. 


A   GAS   ATTACK  233 

I  saw  (assuredly  again  providentially)  that  I  had  struck  the 
extreme  edge  of  the  gas  and  also  that  the  wind  was  blowing 
it  away  to  my  left.  A  hundred  yards  in  the  opposite  direction, 
and  I  was  safe. 

"  I  must  confess  for  a  moment  I  got  a  shock,  as  a  gas 
attack  was  the  very  last  thing  I  was  thinking  about — in 
fact  we  thought  the  Germans  had  given  it  up.  Fortunately 
too  I  had  not  forgotten  the  old  days  of  the  chemistry  room 
at  Ratcliffe  College  nor  Brother  Thompson  and  his  '  stink 
bottles/  so  I  knew  at  the  first  whiff  it  was  chlorine  gas  and 
time  for  this  child  to  make  tracks. 

"  But  I  was  not  yet  out  of  the  wood.  Even  as  I  was 
congratulating  myself  on  my  good  fortune,  I  saw  both  right 
and  left  of  where  I  stood  the  green  wave  of  a  second  gas 
attack  rolling  towards  me  like  some  huge  spectre  stretching 
out  its  ghostly  arms.  As  I  saw  it  coming,  my  heart  went 
out  to  God  in  one  fervent  act  of  gratitude  for  His  goodness 
to  me.  As  probably  you  know  we  all  carry  '  smoke  helmets/ 
slung  over  our  shoulders  in  a  case,  to  be  used  against  a  gas 
attack.  That  morning  as  I  was  leaving  my  dugout  I  threw 
my  helmet  aside.  I  had  a  fairly  long  walk  before  me,  the 
helmet  is  a  bit  heavy  on  a  hot  day,  and  as  I  said,  German 
gas  was  most  unlikely.  So  I  made  up  my  mind  to  leave  it 
behind.  In  view  of  what  happened,  it  may  appear 
imagination  now,  but  a  voice  seemed  to  whisper  loudly  in 
my  ear  :  '  Take  your  helmet  with  you  ;  don't  leave  without 
it/1  I  turned  back  and  slung  it  over  my  shoulder.  Surely 
it  was  the  warning  voice  of  my  guardian  angel,  for  if  I  had 
not  done  so,  you  would  never  have  had  this  letter. 

"  I  wonder  can  you  picture  my  feelings  at  this  moment  ? 
Here  was  death  in  its  most  awful  form  sweeping  down  towards 
me  ;  thank  God  I  had  the  one  thing  which  could  save  me, 
but  with  a  carelessness  for  which  I  ought  to  be  scourged, 
I  had  never  tried  the  helmet  on  and  did  not  know  if  it  were 
in  working  order.  In  theory,  with  the  helmet  on  I  was 
absolutely  safe,  but  it  was  an  anxious  moment  waiting  for 
the  scorching  test,  and  to  make  things  more  horrible,  I  was 
absolutely  alone.  But  I  had  the  companionship  of  One 

I.— On   the   anniversary   of  this   escape   he   once   more    asserted:    "Some 
invisible,  almost  physical,  force  turned  me  back  to  get  my  helmet." 


234  FATHER   WILLIAM   DOYLE,    S  J. 

Who  sustained  me  in  the  hour  of  trial,  and  kneeling  down 
I  took  the  Pyx  from  my  pocket  and  received  the  Blessed 
Eucharist  as  Viaticum.  I  had  not  a  moment  to  spare,  and 
had  my  helmet  just  fixed  when  I  was  buried  in  a  thick  green 
fog  of  poison  gas.  In  a  few  moments  my  confidence  returned 
for  the  helmet  worked  perfectly  and  I  found  I  was  able  to 
breathe  without  any  ill  effects  from  the  gas. 

"  By  the  time  I  got  down  to  the  dressing  station  the  guns 
had  ceased  fire,  the  gas  blown  away,  and  the  sun  was  shining 
in  a  cloudless  sky.  Already  a  stream  of  wounded  was  coming 
in  and  I  soon  had  my  hands  full,  when  an  urgent  message 
reached  me  from  the  front  trench.  A  poor  fellow  had  been 
desperately  wounded,  a  bullet  had  cut  him  like  a  knife  across 
the  stomach,  with  results  you  can  best  imagine.  He  was 
told  he  had  only  a  few  minutes  to  live,  and  asked  if  they 
could  do  anything  for  him.  '  I  have  only  one  wish  before 
I  die/  he  answered,  '  could  you  possibly  get  me  Fr.  Doyle  ? 
I'll  go  happy  then.'  It  was  hard  work  to  reach  him,  as 
parts  of  the  communication  trench  were  knee  deep  in  water 
and  thick  mud.  Then  I  was  misdirected  and  sent  in  the 
wrong  direction,  but  I  kept  on  praying  I  might  be  in  time, 
and  at  last  found  the  dying  man  still  breathing  and  conscious. 
The  look  of  joy,  which  lit  up  his  face  when  I  knelt  beside  him, 
was  reward  enough  for  the  effort  I  had  made.  I  gave  him 
Absolution  and  anointed  him  before  he  died,  but  occupied 
as  I  was  I  did  not  notice  that  a  third  gas  attack  had  begun. 
Before  I  could  get  my  helmet  out  and  on,  I  had  swallowed 
a  couple  of  mouthfuls,  which  did  me  no  serious  harm  beyond 
making  me  feel  rather  sick  and  weak. 

"As  I  made  my  way  slowly  up  the  trench,  feeling  altogether 
'  a  poor  thing,'  I  stumbled  across  a  young  officer  who  had 
been  badly  gassed.  He  had  got  his  helmet  on,  but  was 
coughing  and  choking  in  a  terrible  way.  '  For  God's  sake,' 
he  cried,  '  help  me  to  tear  off  this  helmet — I  can't  breathe. 
I'm  dying.'  I  saw  if  I  left  him  the  end  would  not  be  far ; 
so  catching  hold  of  him,  I  half  carried,  half  dragged  him  up 
the  trench  to  the  medical  aid  post.  I  shall  never  forget 
that  ten  minutes,  it  seemed  hours.  I  seemed  to  have  lost 
all  my  strength  :  struggling  with  him  to  prevent  him  killing 
himself  by  tearing  off  his  helmet  made  me  forget  almost 


A  GAS  ATTACK  235 

how  to  breathe  through  mine.  I  was  almost  stifled,  though 
safe  from  gas,  while  the  perspiration  simply  poured  from 
my  forehead.  I  could  do  nothing  but  pray  for  help  and 
set  my  teeth,  for  if  I  once  let  go,  he  was  a  dead  man.  Thank 
God,  we  both  at  last  got  to  the  aid  post,  and  I  had  the 
happiness  of  seeing  him  in  the  evening  out  of  danger,  though 
naturally  still  weak. 

"  Fortunately  this  last  attack  was  short  and  light,  so  that 
I  was  able  to  take  off  my  helmet  and  after  a  cup  of  tea  was 
all  right.  The  best  proof  I  can  give  you  of  this,  lies  in  the 
fact  that  I  have  since  put  in  three  of  the  hardest  days'  work 
of  my  life  which  I  could  not  possibly  have  done  had  I  been 
really  gassed,  as  its  first  effect  is  to  leave  one  as  helpless 
as  a  child." 

This  last  remark  was  made  in  order  to  relieve  his  father's 
anxiety.  But  it  was,  to  say  the  least,  a  meagre  summary 
of  his  heroic  work  and  almost  miraculous  escape.  A  year 
later  he  lifted  the  veil  somewhat.  "  I  have  never  told  you," 
he  then  confessed,  "  the  whole  story  of  that  memorable 
April  morning  or  the  repetition  of  it  the  following  day,  or 
how  when  I  was  lying  on  the  stretcher  going  to  '  peg  out,'  as 
the  doctor  believed,  God  gave  me  back  my  strength  and 
energy  in  a  way  which  was  nothing  short  of  a  miracle,  to 
help  many  a  poor  fellow  to  die  in  peace  and  perhaps  to  open 
the  gates  of  heaven  to  not  a  few. 

"  I  had  come  through  the  tferee  attacks  without  ill  results, 
though  having  been  unexpectedly  caught  by  the  last  one, 
as  I  was  anointing  a  dying  man  and  did  not  see  the  poisonous 
fumes  coming,  I  had  swallowed  some  of  the  gas  before  I 
could  get  my  helmet  on.  It  was  nothing  very  serious,  but 
left  me  rather  weak  and  washy.  There  was  little  time  to 
think  of  that,  for  wounded  and  dying  were  lying  all  along 
the  trenches,  and  I  was  the  only  priest  on  that  section  at 
the  time. 

'  The  fumes  had  quite  blown  away,  but  a  good  deal  of 
the  gas,  being  of  a  heavy  nature,  had  sunk  down  to  the 
bottom  of  the  trench  and  gathered  under  the  duck-boards 
or  wooden  flooring.  It  was  impossible  to  do  one's  work 
with  the  gas  helmet  on,  and  so  as  I  knelt  down  to  absolve 
or  anoint  man  after  man  for  the  greater  part  of  that  day, 


236  FATHER   WILLIAM   DOYLE,   S.J 

I  had  to  inhale  the  chlorine  fumes  till  I  had  nearly  enough 
gas  in  my  poor  inside  to  inflate  a  German  sausage  Jballoon. 

"  I  did  not  then  know  that  when  a  man  is  gassed  his  only 
chance  (and  a  poor  one  at  that)  is  to  lie  perfectly  still  to 
give  the  heart  a  chance  of  fighting  its  foe.  In  happy  ignorance 
of  my  real  state,  I  covered  mile  after  mile  of  those  trenches 
until  at  last  in  the  evening,  when  the  work  was  done,  I  was 
able  to  rejoin  my  battalion  in  a  village  close  to  the  Line. 

"  It  ,was  only  then  I  began  to  realise  that  I  felt  '  rotten 
bad  '  as  schoolboys  say.  I  remember  the  doctor,  who  was 
a  great  friend  of  mine,  feeling  my  puke  and  shaking  his 
head  as  he  put  me  lying  in  a  corner  of  the  shattered  house, 
and  then  he  sat  beside  me  for  hours  with  a  kindness  I  can 
never  forget.  He  told  me  afterwards  he  was  sure  I  was  a 
'  gone  coon/  but  at  the  moment  I  did  not  care  much.  Then 
I  fell  asleep  only  to  be  rudely  awakened  at  four  next  morning 
by  the  crash  of  guns  and  the  dreaded  bugle  call  '  gas  alarm, 
gas  alarm.'  The  Germans  had  launched  a  second  attack, 
fiercer  than  the  first.  It  did  not  take  long  to  make  up  my 
mind  what  to  do — who  would  hesitate  at  such  a  moment, 
when  the  Reaper  Death  was  busy  ? — and  before  I  reached 
the  trenches  I  had  anointed  a  number  of  poor  fellows  who 
had  struggled  back  after  being  gassed  and  had  fallen  dying 
by  the  roadside.  ' 

'  The  harvest  that  day  was  a  big  one,  for  there  had  been 
bloody  fighting  all  along  ttj£  Front.  Many  a  man  died 
happy  in  the  thought  that  the  priest's  hand  had  been  raised 
in  absolution  over  his  head  and  the  Holy  Oils'  anointing 
had  given  pardon  to  those  senses  which  he  had  used  to'  offend 
•the  Almighty.  It  was  a  long,  hard  day,  a  day  of  heart 
rending  sights,  with  the  consolation  of  good  work  done  in 
spite  of  the  deadly  fumes,  and  I  reached  my  .billet  wet  and 
muddy,  pretty  nearly  worn  out,  but  perfectly  well,  with  not 
the  slightest  ill  effect  from  what  I  had  gone  through,  nor 
have  I  felt  any  since.  Surely  God  has  been  good  to  me. 
That  was  not  the  first  of  His  many  favours,  nor  has  it  been 
the  last  " 

This  was  written  a  year  later.  In  his  first  letter,  while 
concealing  the  extreme  risks  he  had  incurred,  he  gave  his 
father  a  brief  consoling  account  of  his  two  days'  work  amid 
the  ghastly  battlefield. 


A   GAS   ATTACK  237 

"  On  paper  every  man  with  a  helmet  was  as  safe  as  I 
was  from  gas  poisoning.  But  now  it  is  evident  many  of  the 
men  despised  the  '  old  German  gas,'  some  did  not  bother 
putting  on  their  helmets,  others  had  torn  theirs,  and  others 
like  myself  had  thrown  them  aside  or  lost  them.  From 
early  morning  till  late  at  night  I  worked  my  way  from  trench 
to  trench  single  handed  the  first  day,  with  three  regiments 
to  look  after,  and  could  get  no  help.  Many  men  died  before 
I  could  reach  them  ;  others  seemed  just  to  live  till  I  anointed 
them,  and  were  gone  before  I  passed  back.  There  they 
lay,  scores  of  them  (we  lost  800,  nearly  all  from  gas)  in  the 
bottom  of  the  trench,  in  every  conceivable  posture  of  human 
agony  :  the  clothes  torn  off  their  bodies  in  a  vain  effort  to 
breathe  ;  while  from  end  to  end  of  that  valley  of  death 
came  one  low  unceasing  moan  from  the  lips  of  brave  men 
fighting  and  struggling  for  life. 

"  I  don't  think  you  will  blame  me  when  I  tell  you  that 
more  than  once  the  words  of  Absolution  stuck  in  my  throat, 
and  the  tears  splashed  down  on  the  patient  suffering  faces 
of  my  poor  boys  as  I  leant  down  to  anoint  them.  One 
young  soldier  seized  my  two  hands  and  covered  them  with 
kisses  ;  another  looked  up  and  said  :  '  Oh  !  Father  I  can 
die  happy  now,  sure  I'm  not  afraid  of  death  or  anything 
else  since  I  have  seen  you.'  Don't  you  think,  dear  father, 
that  the  little  sacrifice  made  in  coming  out  here  has  already 
been  more  than  repaid,  and  if  you  have  suffered  a  little 
anxiety  on  my  account,  you  have  at  least  the  consolation 
of  knowing  that  I  have,  through  God's  goodness,  been  able 
to  comfort  many  a  poor  fellow  and  perhaps  to  open  the  gates. 
of  Heaven  for  them." 

After  this  terrible  experience  Fr.  Doyle  was  glad  to  have 
a  few  days'  rest  at  the  rear.  For  the  first  time  in  a  fortnight 
he  was  able  to  remove  his  clothes  and  he  slept  for  thirteen 
continuous  hours  in  a  real  bed.  He  had,  as  he  himself  said, 
'  nearly  reached  the  end  of  his  tether  '  For  his  conduct  on 
the  occasion  he  was  mentioned  in  dispatches.1  On  which 
he  remarks  :  "I  hope  that  the  angels  have  done  their  work 

I. — His  Colonel  recommended  him  for  the  Military  Cross  but  was  told  that 
Fr.  Doyle  had  not  been  long-  enough  at  the  Front.  So  he  was  presented  with 
the  Parchment  of  Merit  of  the  4gth  Brigade. 


238  FATHER  WILLIAM  DOYLE,   SJ. 

as  well  and  that  I  shall  get  a  little  corner  in  their  report 
to  Head  Quarters  above."  Fortunately,  there  is  no  doubt 
about  the  latter  point  !  Not  angels  only  but  human  souls 
speeded  heavenwards  bore  tribute  to  the  self-sacrificing  zeal 
of  the  soldier  of  Christ. 

During  the  comparative  lull  which  succeeded  this  attack 
Fr.  Doyle  was  kept  busy  by  the  men,  "  scraping  their 
kettles/'  as  they  expressed  it.  "I  wish  mine  were  half  as 
clean  as  some  of  theirs,"  he  adds.  Thus  on  Sunday, 
I4th  May,  between  600  and  700  men  went  to  Holy  Com 
munion.  Once  more  he  eulogizes  his  little  flock.  "  One 
cannot  help  feeling  proud  of  our  Irish  lads,"  he  writes. 
"  Everyone  loves  them — the  French  girls,  naturally  that 
goes  without  saying  ;  the  shopkeepers  love  them  for  their 
simplicity  in  paying  about  five  times  the  real  value  of  the 
goods  they  buy.  Monsieur  le  Cure  would  hug  them  each 
and  everyone  if  he  could,  for  he  has  been  simply  raking  in 
the  coin  these  days,  many  a  one  putting  three  and  five  franc 
notes  in  the  plate,  to  make  up,  J  suppose,  for  the  trouser 
buttons  of  the  knowing  ones  ;  and  surely  our  Blessed  Lord 
loves  them  best  of  all  for  their  simple,  unaffected  piety 
which  brings  crowds  of  them  at  all  hours  of  the  day  to  visit 
Him  in  the  Tabernacle.  Need  I  add  that  the  Padre  himself 
has  a  warm  corner  in  his  heart  for  his  boys,  as  I  think  they 
have  for  him,  judging  by  their  anxiety  when  the  report 
spread  that  I  had  got  knocked  out  in  the  gas  attack.  They 
are  as  proud  as  punch  to  have  the  chaplain  with  them  in 
the  trenches.  It  is  quite  amusing  to  hear  them  point  out 
jmy  dug-out  to  strangers  as  they  go  by  :  '  That's  our  priest/ 
with  a  special  stress  on  the  our."  For  which  assuredly  the 
Fusiliers  had  good  reason. 

What  did  he  himself  think  of  it  all  ?  The  following  little 
description  of  another  Crucifix  will  help  to  show  us  where 
his  thoughts  lay. 

"  I  paid  a  visit  recently  to  another  wonder  of  the  war, 
the  Church  of  Vermelles.  Little  remains  of  it  now,  for  the 
town  has  been  held  in  succession  by  the  Germans,  French, 
and  ourselves,  and  every  yard  of  ground  was  lost  and  won 
a  dozen  times.  The  church  is  just  a  heap  of  ruins :  the  roof 
has  been  burnt,  the  tower  shot  away,  while  the  statues, 


A  GAS  ATTACK  239 

Stations,  etc.,  are  smashed  to  dust,  but  hanging  still  on  one 
of  the  broken  walls  is  a  large  crucifix  absolutely  untouched. 
The  figure  is  a  beautiful  one,  a  work  of  art,  and  the  face 
of  our  Lord  has  an  expression  of  sadness  such  as  I  have 
never  seen  before.  The  eyes  are  open,  gazing  as  it  were 
upon  the  scene  of  desolation,  and  though  the  wall  upon  which 
the  crucifix  hangs  is  riddled  with  bullet  holes  and  shell 
splinters,  the  image  is  untouched  save  for  one  round  bullet 
hole  just  through  the  heart.  The  whole  thing  may  be  only 
chance,  but  it  is  a  striking  sight,  and  cannot  fail  to  impress 
one  and  bring  home  the  fact  that  if  God  is  scourging  the 
world  as  it  well  deserves,  He  is  not  indifferent  to  the  sorrows 
and  sufferings  of  His  children." 

A  few  intimate  letters  written  at  this  time  give  us  a  precious 
glimpse  of  his  inner  life.  We  are  thus  enabled  to  see  a  little 
of  that  inward  soul-world,  so  calm  and  undisturbed,  so 
perfectly  hidden  beneath  the  multifarious  activities  and 
cheerful  vigour  of  a  military  chaplain.  He  felt  that  his 
present  life,  so  repellent  to  his  natural  self,  was  at  once 
the  fulfilment  and  the  test  of  all  his  previous  aspirations 
for  the  foreign  mission  and  martyrdom.  His  experience 
seemed  to  him  a  purifying  preparation  for  some  great  task, 
the  consummation  of  all  his  striving  and  sacrifice.  "  Life 
out  here,"  he  writes,  "  has  had  one  strange  effect  on  me. 
I  feel  as  if  I  had  been  crushed  under  some  great  weight, 
an^  that  the  crushing  had  somehow  got  rid  of  much  that 
was  bad  in  me  and  brought  me  closer  to  Jesus.  If  it  should 
be  God's  holy  will  to  bring  me  safe  out  of  this  war,  life  will 
be  too  short  to  thank  Him  for  all  the  graces  He  has  given 
me  here.  I  am  already  dreaming  dreams  of  the  big  things 
I  shall  try  to  do  for  Him,  but  I  fancy  He  wants  to  crush  me 
still  more  before  I  get  out  of  this.  I  read  a  passage  recently 
in  the  letters  of  Pere  Liberman1  which  is  consoling.  He 
says  that  he  found  from  long  experience  that  God  never 
filled  a  soul  with  an  ardent  and  lasting  desire  for  anything, 
e.g.,  love,  holiness,  etc.,  without  in  the  end  gratifying  it. 
Has  He  not  in  the  lesser  things  acted  thus  with  me  ?  You 
know  my  desire  for  the  foreign  missions  because  I  realized 
that  the  privation  and  hardships  of  such  a  life,  the  separation 

I.— P.  Goepfert,  Life  of  the  Ven  F.  M.  P.  Liberman,  Dublin,  1880. 


240  FATHER   WILLIAM   DOYLE,   SJ. 

from  all  naturally  dear  to  me,  would  be  an  immense  help 
to  holiness.  And  here  I  am  a  real  missioner,  if  not  in  the 
Congo,  at  least  with  many  of  the  wants  and  sufferings  and 
even  greater  dangers  than  I  should  have  found  there.  The 
longing  for  martyrdom  God  has  gratified  times  without 
number,  for  I  have  had  to  go  into  what  seemed  certain  death, 
gladly  making  the  offering  of  my  poor  life,  but  He  did  not 
accept  it,  so  that  the  '  daily  martyrdom  '  might  be  repeated. 
How  I  thank  Him  for  this  keenest  of  all  sufferings,  the 
prospect  of  death  when  life  is  bounding  within  one,  since 
it  makes  me  a  little  more  like  the  Saviour  shrinking  from 
death  in  the  Garden  !  Even  my  anxiety  to  have  more 
time  for  prayer  has  been  gratified,  because  while  waiting 
for  one  thing  or  another  or  going  on  my  rounds,  I  have 
many  opportunities  for  a  little  talk  with  Him." 

What  he  especially  valued  was  the  privilege  of  being  a 
living  Tabernacle,  of  always  carrying  the  Blessed  Sacrament 
around  with  him.  This  was  to  Fr.  Doyle  not  only  a  constant 
source  of  consolation  but  also  enabled  him  to  overcome  his 
natural  loathing  for  the  scenes  of  strife  and  slaughter  around 
him,  and  to  manifest  an  amazingly  imperturbable  courage 
which  he  was  really  far  from  feeling.  "  I  have  been  living 
in  the  front  trenches  for  the  last  week,"  he  says  in  another 
letter,  "  in  a  sea  of  mud,  drenched  to  the  skin  with  rain 
and  mercilessly  peppered  with  all  sorts  and  conditions  of 
shells.  Yet  I  realize  that  some  strange  purifying  process 
is  going  on  in  my  soul,  and  that  this  life  is  doing  much  for 
my  sanctification  This  much  I  can  say :  I  hunger  and 
thirst  for  holiness,  and  for  humiliations  and  sufferings,  which 
are  the  short-cut  to  holiness ;  though  when  these  things 
do  come,  I  often  pull  a  long  face  and  try  to  avoid  them. 
Yet  lately  I  have  come  to  understand  as  never  before  that 
it  is  only  '  through  many  tribulations  '  we  can  hope  to  enter 
the  Promised  Land  of  sanctity.  I  think  when  this  war  is 
over  (about  twenty  years  hence),  I  shall  become  a  hermit  ! 
I  never  felt  so  utterly  sick  of  the  world  and  worldlings.  All 
this  bustle  and  movement  has  wearied  my  soul  beyond 
measure.  I  am  longing  for  solitude,  to  be  alone  with  Jesus, 
for  He  seems  to  fill  every  want  in  my  life.  All  the  same 
as  the  days  go  by  I  thank  our  Blessed  Lord  more  and  more 


A  GAS  ATTACK  241 

for  the  grace  of  getting  out  here.  Not  exactly  because  of 
the  consolation  of  helping  so  many  poor  fellows  or  because 
of  the  merit  the  hard  life  must  bring  with  it,  but  because 
I  feel  this  experience  has  influenced  my  whole  future,  which 
I  cannot  further  explain  except  by  saying  that  God  has 
given  me  the  grace  of  my  life  since  I  came. 

"  Then  in  addition  there  is  the  great  privilege  and  joy 
of  carrying  our  dear  Lord  next  my  heart  day  and  night. 
Long  ago  when  reading  that  Pius  IX  carried  the  Pyx  around 
his  neck,  I  felt  a  foolish  desire,  as  it  seemed  to  me,  for  the 
same  privilege.  Little  did  I  think  then  that  the  God  of 
holiness  would  stoop  so  low  as  to  make  me  His  resting-place. 
Why  this  favour  alone  would  be  worth  going  through  twenty 
wars  for  !  I  feel  ashamed  at  times  that  I  do  not  profit 
more  by  His  nearness,  but  I  know  that  He  makes  allowances 
for  weak  inconstant  nature,  and  that  even  when  I  do  not 
directly  think  of  Him,  He  is  silently  working  in  my  soul. 
Do  you  not  think  that  Jesus  must  have  done  very  much 
for  Mary  during  the  nine  months  she  bore  Him  within  her  ? 
I  feel  that  He  will  do  much,  very  much,  for  me  too  whilst 
I  carry  Him  about  with  me." 

Writing  on  yth  May  he  lets  an  intimate  correspondent 
see  clearly  the  source  of  all  his  strength  and  courage. 
"  Sometimes  God  seems  to  leave  me  to  my  weakness  and 
I  tremble  with  fear,"  he  confesses.  "At  other  times  I  have 
so  much  trust  and  confidence  in  His  loving  protection  that 
I  could  almost  sit  down  on  a  bursting  shell  feeling  I  could 
come  to  no  harm.  You  would  laugh,  or  perhaps  cry,  if  you 
saw  me  at  this  moment  sitting  on  a  pile  of  bricks  and  rubbish. 
Shells  are  bursting  some  little  distance  away  on  three  sides 
and  occasionally  a  piece  comes  down  with  an  unpleasantly 
close  thud.  But  what  does  it  matter  ?  Jesus  is  resting  on 
my  heart,  and  whenever  I  like  I  can  fold  my  arms  over  Him 
and  press  Him  to  that  heart  which,  as  He  knows,  beats 
with  love  of  Him."1  With  what  wonderful  literalness  does 
this  attitude  reproduce  the  message  of  our  Lord  Himself : 
"  I  say  to  you,  My  friends,  Be  not  afraid  of  them  who  kill 

I. — He  is  alluding  to  the  Blessed  Sacrament  which  he  was  carrying.  It  was  only 
two  days  after  his  superhuman  work  and  miraculous  recovery  that  he  wrote  in  his 
diary  :  "Jesus  said  to  me,  You  must  make  your  life  a  martyrdom  of  prayer."  Cited 
above,  p.  114. 

Q 


242  FATHER  WILLIAM  DOYLE,   SJ. 

the  body  and  after  that  have  no  more  that  they  can 
do.<;  .  .  .  Are  not  five  sparrows  sold  for  two  farthings 
and  not  one  of  them  is  forgotten  before  God  ?  Yea,  the 
very  hairs  of  your  head  are  all  numbered.  Fear  not, 
therefore ;  you  are  of  more  value  than  many  sparrows." 
(5.  Luke  12.  4.)  To  which  we  may  surely  add  the  next 
verse  :  "  Whosoever  shall  confess  Me  before  men,  him  shall 
the  Son  of  man  also  confess  before  the  angels  of  God."  A 
guarantee  that  not  one  of  the  unrecorded  deeds  of  Christian 
heroism  '  is  forgotten  before  God,'  and  that  Fr.  Doyle, 
flitting  like  an  angel  of  mercy  over  the  gas-stricken  field 
of  Loos,  got  what  he  calls  his  little  corner  in  the  report  to 
Head  Quarters  above. 


(6.)  ANOTHER  SPELL  AT  THE  FRONT. 

On  2nd  June,  Fr.  Doyle  secured  a  much  needed  leave 
of  absence.  "  I  do  not  think,"  he  says,  "  I  ever  looked 
forward  to  a  holiday  with  such  keenness  in  my  life  before." 
The  nerve-racking,  ear-splitting,  ceaseless  warfare ;  the 
constant  stream  of  soldiers  to  be  helped,  shriven,  anointed 
or  buried  ;  the  physical  discomforts,  the  rats  and  the  vermin, 
the  intense  cold  and  knee-deep  slush  succeeded  now  by  the 
aching  glare  of  the  chalk  trenches ;  the  poison-gas  working 
on  his  body,  and  the  nauseating  scenes  of  bloodshed  working 
on  his  mind ;  all  this,  quite  apart  from  his  self-imposed 
martyrdom  of  prayer  and  penance,  had  told  severely  on 
Fr.  Doyle,  though  outwardly  he  was  as  joyous  and  gay  as 
ever.  His  all  too  short  holiday  of  ten  days  was  soon  over, 
however ;  and  once  more  he  was  back  in  the  trenches. 

He  was  hardly  back  when  a  new  adventure  befel  him. 
"  It  seems  right,"  he  tells  his  Father,  "  that  I  should  not 
keep  from  you  this  last  mark  of  the  good  God's  wonderful 
protection  which  has  been  so  manifest  during  the  past  four 
months." 

"  I  was  standing  in  a  trench,  quite  a  long  distance  from 
the  firing  line,  a  spot  almost  as  safe  as  Dalkey  itself,  talking 
to  some  of  my  men,  when  we  heard  in  the  distance  the  scream 


ANOTHER  SPELL  AT  THE  FRONT  243 

of  a  shell.  It  was  evidently  one  of  those  random  shots, 
which  Brother  Fritz  sends  along  from  time  to  time,  as  no 
other  came  after  it.  We  very  soon  became  painfully  aware 
that  our  visitor  was  heading  for  us,  and  that  if  he  did  not 
explode  in  front  of  our  trench,  his  career  would  certainly 
come  to  an  end  close  behind  us.  I  did  not  feel  uneasy, 
for  I  knew  we  were  practically  safe  from  flying  fragments 
which  would  pass  over  our  heads,  but  none  of  us  had 
calculated  that  this  gentleman  had  made  up  his  mind  to 
drop  into  the  trench  itself,  a  couple  of  paces  from  where 
I  stood. 

"  What  really  took  place  in  the  next  ten  seconds  I  cannot 
say.  I  was  conscious  of  a  terrific  explosion  and  the  thud 
of  falling  stones  and  debris.  I  thought  the  drums  of  my 
ears  were  split  by  the  crash,  and  I  believe  I  was  knocked 
down  by  the  concussion,  but  when  I  jumped  to  my  feet 
I  found  that  the  two  men  who  had  been  standing  at  my  left 
hand,  the  side  the  shell  fell,  were  stretched  on  the  ground 
dead,  though  I  think  I  had  time  to  give  them  absolution 
and  anoint  them.  The  poor  fellow  on  my  right  was  lying 
badly  wounded  in  the  head ;  but  I  myself,  though  a  bit 
stunned  and  dazed  by  the  suddenness  of  the  whole  thing, 
was  absolutely  untouched,  though  covered  with  dirt  and 
blood. 

"  My  escape  was  nothing  short  of  a  miracle,  for  a  moment 
before  I  was  standing  on  the  very  spot  the  shell  fell  and  had 
just  moved  away  a  couple  of  paces.  I  did  not  think  it  was 
possible  for  one  to  be  so  near  a  high  explosive  and  not  be 
killed,  and  even  now  I  cannot  account  for  my  marvellous 
escape.  In  saying  this  I  am  not  quite  truthful,  for  I  have 
not  a  doubt  where  the  saving  protection  came  from.  I  had 
made  up  my  mind  to  consecrate  some  small  hosts  at  my 
Mass  the  following  morning  and  put  them  in  my  Pyx  as 
usual,  but  as  I  walked  through  the  little  village  on  my  way 
to  the  trenches,  the  thought  came  to  me  that  with  so  much 
danger  about,  it  would  be  well  to  have  our  Blessed  Lord's 
company  and  protection.  I  went  into  the  church,  opened 
the  Tabernacle,  and  with  the  Sacred  Host  resting  on  my 
heart  set  out  confidently  to  face  whatever  lay  before  me; 
little  did  I  think  I  was  to  be  so  near  death  or  how  much 


244  FATHER  WILLIAM  DOYLE,   SJ. 

depended  on  that  simple  action.  That  is  the  explanation 
of  the  whole  affair;  I  trusted  Him  and  I  believe  He  just 
allowed  this  to  happen  on  the  very  first  day  I  got  back  to 
make  me  trust  Him  all  the  more  and  have  greater  confidence 
in  His  loving  protection."1 

Even  the  week's  rest  in  billets,  though  a  change  from  life 
in  the  trenches,  meant  no  cessation  of  work  or  risk.  It  was 
a  busy  time  for  the  chaplain,  as  the  men  availed  of  the 
opportunity  for  Confession  and  Holy  Communion.  Even 
here,  well  behind  the  firing  line,  danger  was  not  absent, 
for  the  German  long  range  guns  often  sent  unwelcome  visitors. 
"  One  shell  hit  this  house,"  he  complained,  "  came  slick 
through  the  brick  wall  into  my  poor  bedroom  of  all  places, 
very  shabby  I  call  it,  missed  my  bed  by  just  an  inch,  took 
a  dive  through  the  floor  into  the  room  below,  and  having 
amused  itself  with  the  furniture,  coolly  walked  out  through 
the  opposite  wall  without  condescending  to  burst,  in  indig 
nation,  I  suppose,  because  I  was  not  there.  No  one  was 
hurt  and  not  much  harm  done.  I  have  put  the  head  of  my 
bed  in  the  hole  in  the  wall,  for  it  is  a  point  of  honour  among 
shells  not  to  come  twice  through  the  same  spot,  and  in 
consequence  I  sleep  securely."  "  With  all  these  prayers 
going  on,"  he  added  to  reassure  those  at  home,  "  a  fellow 
has  no  chance  of  getting  hit ;  it's  not  fair,  I  think  !  " 

At  any  rate,  it  was  not  Fr.  Doyle's  fault  that  he  was  not 
hit,  for  when  there  was  question  of  ministering  to  his  men, 
he  was  absolutely  heedless  of  danger.  Further  proof  of  this 
is  unnecessary,  but  one  or  two  more  instances  occurring 
at  this  time  (July,  1916)  may  be  recorded.  He  wanted  to 
go  quickly  to  a  certain  village  which  his  men  were  holding. 
The  journey  by  '  the  underground/  otherwise  '  trench  street,' 
would  take  a  couple  of  hours,  whereas  a  quarter  of  an  hour's 
cycle  ride  over  the  high  road  would  bring  him  to  the  village. 

I. — In  the  first  edition  I  quoted  this  extract  from  Fr.  Doyle's  letter  of  28th  June  : 
''All  last  week  there  was  fearful  slaughter  in  our  trenches.  In  fact  I  am  quite  worn 
out  with  carrying  off  the  dead  and  burying  them.  To  save  time  and  trouble  I  made 
a  big  grave  behind  my  dug-out  and  just  pitched  in  the  dead  bodies ;  one  gets  very 
callous,  I  fear,  during  war."  I  am  afraid  I  took  too  literally  this  elaborate  joke  so 
typical  of  Fr.  Doyle.  The  next  sentence,  overlooked  by  me,  gives  the  key.  "  I  was 
much  helped  in  this  by  a  lady  whom  you  know  well,  as  it  was  her  tins  of  deadly 
explosives  which  laid  the  enemy  low ;  I  have  only  to  say  Heating's  once  to  make 
the  foe  flee." 


ANOTHER  SPELL  AT  THE  FRONT  245 

The  road,  however,  was  in  full  view  of  the  German  trenches 
which  were  quite  near,  and  no  one  ever  ventured  along  it 
in  daylight.  Fr.  Doyle  was  the  exception.  He  cycled  the 
whole  way  without  one  bullet  being  fired.  Moreover  he  had 
to  slacken  speed  several  times  in  order  to  avoid  the  shell 
holes  with  which  the  road  was  pitted,  and  he  had  to  dismount 
once  to  pick  up  his  bicycle  pump  which  had  been  jerked 
off.  "  Judging  by  some  remarks  which  have  reached  me 
since,"  he  concludes,  "  people  cannot  make  up  their  minds 
whether  I  am  a  hero  or  a  fool — I  vote  for  the  second.  But 
then  they  cannot  understand  what  the  salvation  of  even 
one  soul  means  to  a  priest.  So  I  just  laugh  and  go  my  way, 
happy  in  the  thought  that  I  was  in  time."  This  diversity 
of  judgement  is  just  as  applicable  to  Fr.  Doyle's  life  as  a 
whole.  Was  he  a  hero  or  a  fool  ?  That  is  because  we  forget 
the  possibility  of  his  being  both.1 

"  My  second  adventure,  if  I  may  so  style  it,  (says  Fr.  Doyle) 
was  of  a  different  kind.  Preparations  had  been  made  for 
the  blowing  up  of  a  gigantic  mine  sunk  under  the  German 
trenches,  while  at  the  same  time  our  men  were  to  make  a 
raid  or  night  attack  on  the  enemy.  The  hour  fixed  was 
eleven  o'clock,  so  shortly  after  ten  I  made  my  way  up  to  the 
firing  line,  where  the  attacking  party  were  waiting.  They 
were  grouped  in  two  bodies,  one  on  either  side  of  the  mine, 
waiting  for  the  explosion  to  rush  over  the  parapet  and  seize 
the  newly  formed  mine-crater. 

"As  I  came  along  the  trench  I  could  hear  the  men  whisper, 
'  Here's  the  priest/  while  the  faces  which  a  moment  before 
had  been  marked  with  the  awful  strain  of  the  waiting  lit 
up  with  pleasure.  As  I  gave  the  absolution  and  the  blessing 
of  God  on  their  work,  I  could  not  help  thinking  how  many 
a  poor  fellow  would  soon  be  stretched  lifeless  a  few  paces 
from  where  he  stood ;  and  though  I  ought  to  be  hardened 
by  this  time,  I  found  it  difficult  to  choke  down  the  sadness 
which  filled  my  heart.  '  God  bless  you,  Father,  we're  ready 
now,'  was  reward  enough  for  facing  the  danger,  since  every 
man  realized  that  each  moment  was  full  of  dreadful 
possibilities. 

i.— "We  are  fools  for  Christ's  sake,"  says  S.  Paul  (I.  Cor.  4.  10),  "but  you  are 
wise  in  Christ."  Surely  there  is  room  for  both  types  of  goodness. 


246  FATHER  WILLIAM   DOYLE,   SJ. 

"  It  was  well  known  that  the  Germans  were  counter 
mining,  and  if  they  got  wind  of  our  intention  would  certainly 
try  and  explode  their  mine  before  ours.  It  was  uncanny 
walking  along,  knowing  that  at  any  moment  you  might 
find  yourself  sailing  skywards,  wafted  by  the  gentle  breath 
of  four  or  five  tons  of  explosive.  Fortunately  nothing 
happened,  but  the  moments  were  running  out,  so  I  hurried 
down  the  communication  trench  to  the  dressing  station  in 
a  dug-out  about  a  hundred  yards  away,  where  I  intended 
waiting  for  the  wounded  to  be  brought  in. 

"  On  the  stroke  of  eleven  I  climbed  up  the  parapet  out 
of  the  trench,  and  as  I  did  there  was  a  mighty  roar  in  the 
bowels  of  the  earth,  the  ground  trembled  and  rocked  and 
quivered,  and  then  a  huge  column  of  clay  and  stones  was 
shot  hundreds  of  feet  in  the  air.  As  the  earth  opened  dense 
clouds  of  smoke  and  flames  burst  out,  an  awful  and  never 
to  be  forgotten  sight.  God  help  the  poor  fellows,  even 
though  they  be  our  enemies,  who  were  caught  in  that  inferno 
and  buried  alive  or  blown  to  bits. 

"  For  a  second  there  was  a  lull,  and  then  it  seemed  as 
if  hell  were  let  loose.  Our  artillery  in  the  rear  were  standing 
ready,  waiting  for  the  signal ;  the  moment  the  roar  of  the 
explosion  was  heard  every  gun  opened  fire  with  a  deafening 
crash.  Already  our  men  were  over  the  parapet  with  a  yell 
which  must  have  terrified  the  enemy,  up  the  side  of  the 
crater,  and  were  digging  themselves  in  for  their  lives.  Under 
cover  of  our  guns  the  raiding  party  had  raced  for  the  enemy's 
trench,  fought  their  way  in  and  out  again,  as  our  object 
was  not  to  gain  ground." 

At  this  stage,  the  German  guns  having  come  into  action, 
Fr.  Doyle  retired  to  the  dug-out  and  was  soon  busy  with  the 
wounded  and  dying.  One  of  these  was  a  slightly  wounded 
German  prisoner ;  he  was  only  a  young  lad  and  his  teeth 
chattered  with  fear.  With  great  difficulty  Fr.  Doyle,  who 
knew  no  German,  calmed  the  poor  fellow  who  turned  out 
to  be  a  Bavarian  Catholic.  It  was  by  no  means  the  only 
occasion  on  which  this  true  minister  of  Christ  practised 
that  brotherhood  and  love  of  which  war  seems  to  be  the 
cruel  negation.  More  than  once  too  he  preached  (in  rather 
strong  terms)  to  his  men  on  their  obligation  to  respect  the 
lives  of  prisoners. 


ANOTHER  SPELL  AT  THE   FRONT  247 

Still  another  adventure.  "August  I5th  has  always  been 
a  day  of  many  graces  for  me,"  writes  Fr.  Doyle.  "It  is 
the  anniversary  of  my  consecration  to  Mary  and  of  my 
vows  in  the  Society ;  it  was  very  nearly  making  me  surpass 
our  Lady  herself  by  sending  me  higher  up  than  she  ever 
got  in  her  life."  The  men  were  out  of  the  trenches,  staying 
in  the  village  of  Mazingarbe.  On  the  afternoon  of  I5th 
August,  1916,  most  of  the  men  were  engaged  in  athletic 
sports  in  a  field  outside  when  the  Germans  began  shelling 
the  town.  Needless  to  say,  Fr.  Doyle  at  once  started  for 
the  scene  of  danger. 

"  Knowing  there  were  a  good  number  of  my  boys  about 
(he  writes)  I  hurried  back  as  quickly  as  I  could,  and  made 
my  way  up  the  long,  narrow  street.  The  shells  were  all 
coming  in  one  direction,  across  the  road,  not  down  it,  so 
that  by  keeping  close  to  the  houses  on  the  shady  side  there 
was  little  danger,  though  occasional  thrills  of  excitement 
enough  to  satisfy  Don  Quixote  himself.  I  reached  the  village 
cross-roads  in  time  to  lift  up  the  poor  sentry  who  had  been 
badly  hit,  and  with  the  help  of  a  couple  of  men  carried  him 
to  the  side  of  the  road.  He  was  unconscious,  but  I  gave  him 
absolution  and  was  half  way  through  the  anointing  when 
with  a  scream  and  a  roar  which  made  our  hearts  jump  a  shell 
whizzed  over  our  heads  and  crashed  into  the  wall  directly 
opposite  on  the  other  side  of  the  street,  covering  us  with 
brick  dust  and  dirt.  Bits  of  shrapnel  came  thud,  thud,  on 
the  ground  and  wall  around  us,  but  neither  I  nor  the  men 
were  touched. 

'  Begorra,  Father,  that  was  a  near  one,  anyhow/  said 
one  of  them,  as  he  brushed  the  dust  off  his  tunic,  and  started 
to  fill  his  pipe.  '  It  was  well  we  had  your  Reverence  with 
us  when  Jerry  (a  nickname  for  German)  sent  that  one  across/ 
'  You  must  not  thank  me,  boys/  I  said,  '  don't  you  know 
it  is  our  Lady's  feast,  and  Mary  had  her  mantle  spread  over 
us  to  save  us  from  all  harm  ?  '  '  True  for  you,  Father', 
came  the  answer.  But  I  could  see  by  their  faces  that  they 
were  by  no  means  convinced  that  I  had  not  worked  the 
miracle. 

"  Though  it  was  the  I5th  of  August  I  was  taking  no  risks, 
especially  with  this  reputation  to  maintain  !     So,  the  poor 


248  FATHER  WILLIAM  DOYLE,   S.J. 

boy  being  dead,  I  bundled  the  rest  of  them  down  a  cellar 
out  of  harm's  way,  and  started  off  again.  Heavy  as  the 
shelling  was,  little  damage  was  done  thanks  to  the  fact 
that  the  sports  had  emptied  the  town.  One  man  was  beyond 
my  aid,  a  few  slightly  wounded,  and  that  was  all.  As  I 
came  round  the  corner  of  the  Church  I  met  four  of  my  boys 
calmly  strolling  along  in  the  middle  of  the  street  as  if  they 
were  walking  on  Kingstown  pier.  I  won't  record  what  I 
said,  but  my  words  helped  by  the  opportune  arrival  of  an 
unpleasantly  near  H.E.  (high  explosive)  had  the  desired 
effect,  and  we  all  took  cover  in  the  church.  It  was  only 
then  I  realised  my  mistake,  for  it  soon  became  evident  the 
Germans  were  firing  at  the  church  itself.  One  after  another 
the  shells  came  in  rapid  succession,  first  on  one  side  then 
on  the  other,  dropping  in  front  and  behind  the  building, 
which  was  a  target  with  its  tall,  white  tower.  It  was  mad 
ness  to  go  out,  and  I  do  not  think  the  men,  some  score  of 
them,  knew  of  their  danger,  nor  did  I  tell  them,  but  '  man 
of  little  faith,'  as  I  was,  I  cast  anxious  eyes  at  the  roof  and 
wished  it  were  stronger.  All's  well  that  ends  well,  they 
say.  Not  a  shot  hit  the  church,  though  the  houses  and  road 
got  it  hot.  Our  fiery  ordeal  ended  at  last,  safely  and  happily 
for  all  of  us.  And  August  I5th,  1916,  went  down  on  my 
list  as  another  day  of  special  grace  and  favour  at  Mary's 
hands." 

Quite  apart  from  these  special  escapes,  Fr.  Doyle's  ordinary 
days  were  filled  with  thrilling  dangers  and  exhausting  toil. 
"  I  often  congratulate  myself,"  he  says,  "  on  my  good  fortune 
in  being  appointed  to  the  Irish  Brigade,  more  especially 
as  the  last  vacancy  fell  to  me.  The  vast  majority  of  the 
chaplains  at  the  Front  seldom  see  anything  more  dangerous 
than  the  shell  of  an  egg  of  doubtful  age.  They  are  doing 
splendid  work  along  the  lines  of  communication,  in  the 
hospitals,  or  at  the  base.  Even  those  who  are  attached 
to  non-Catholic  Divisions  have  little  time  to  get  to  the 
trenches,  their  men  are  so  scattered  ;  but  we  with  the  Irish 
Regiments  live  in  the  thick  of  it.  We  share  the  hardships 
and  dangers  with  our  men,  and  if  we  have  less  polish  on  our 
boots  and  belts  than  other  spruce  padres,  let  us  hope  we 
have  something  more  to  our  bank  account  in  a  better 
world." 


ANOTHER   SPELL  AT  THE   FRONT  249 

Almost  before  daybreak  Fr.  Doyle  was  up  and  had  the 
happiness  of  offering  the  Holy  Sacrifice.  In  August,  1916, 
he  was  able  to  fit  up  a  room  in  a  deserted  house  and  here 
from  time  to  time  he  was  able  to  celebrate  Mass  for  the 
men,  "  a  privilege  which  the  poor  fellows  appreciate."  In 
one  corner  were  the  cellar  steps  down  which,  when  occasion 
required,  priest  and  congregation  vanished  with  marvellous 
celerity.  Once  a  shell  came  through  the  wall  and  fell  on 
the  floor  without  bursting,  covering  the  little  altar  with 
bricks  and  plaster.  But  when  in  the  trenches  he  celebrated 
in  his  dug-out.  The  morning  was  spent  in  visits  to  five 
dressing  stations  in  various  parts  of  the  trenches,  saying 
some  of  his  Office,  Confessions  or  chats  with  the  men.  "  Quite 
often,"  he  says,  "  an  officer  will  drop  in  for  a  friendly  con 
troversial  talk,  resulting,  thank  God,  in  much  good.  There 
is  no  doubt  that  the  faith  and  sincere  piety  of  our  men  have 
made  an  immense  impression  on  non-Catholics,  and  have 
made  them  anxious  to  know  more  about  the  true  Church." 
"  In  the  afternoon,"  he  continues,  "  I  make  a  tour  of  the 
front  line  trenches.  To  be  candid,  it  is  part  of  my  work 
which  I  do  not  like.  We  chaplains  are  not  bound  to  go 
into  the  firing  line  ;  in  fact  are  not  supposed  to  do  so,  but 
the  officers  welcome  us  warmly,  as  a  chat  and  a  cheery  word 
bucks  the  men  up  so  much.  It  is  not  that  the  danger  is 
very  great ;  in  fact,  I  think  it  is  much  less  than  in  other 
parts  of  the  trenches,  because  the  track  being  built  in  a 
zigzag,  you  are  perfectly  safe  in  a  '  bay  '  owing  to  the  walls 
of  clay  on  either  side,  unless  a  shell  falls  on  the  very  spot 
where  you  are  standing.  But  it  is  the  uncanny  feeling, 
which  comes  over  one,  knowing  that  the  enemy  in  some 
parts  are  only  thirty  yards  away,  which  makes  the  trip 
unpleasant.  I  have  often  come  to  a  '  bay  '  blown  in  shortly 
before  by  a  shell  from  a  mortar,  a  little  gentleman  weighing 
200  Ibs.  ;  you  can  see  him  coming  in  the  air,  and  when  you 
do,  well  you  slip  into  the  next  '  bay '  and  try  to  feel  as  small 
as  you  can.  I  have  had  to  crawl  past  a  gap  in  the  trench, 
but  I  can  honestly  say  I  have  never  had  anything  approaching 
a  near  shave.  The  Lord  does  not  forget  His  goats  when 
He  is  minding  His  sheep  !  " 

Night  did  not  mean  rest  for  Fr.  Doyle,  for  it  was  then 


250  FATHER  WILLIAM   DOYLE,   SJ. 

that  he  usually  conducted  burials.  Moreover  as  most  of 
the  ordinary  fighting  was  done  at  night  it  was  then  that  he 
was  most  liable  to  '  sick  calls/  He  might  perhaps  have 
just  turned  in  at  2  a.m.,  when  word  would  come  that  one 
of  his  men  in  a  distant  part  of  the  trench  had  his  leg  shot 
off.  His  '  home  '  itself  was  a  hole  dug  in  the  side  of  the 
trench,  his  '  bed  '  was  a  couple  of  planks  raised  off  the 
ground.  "  We  have  rats  and  fleas  by  the  million,"  he  writes, 
"  innumerable  flies  which  eat  the  jam  off  your  bread  before 
you  can  get  it  into  your  mouth,  smells  wondrous  and  varied, 
not  to  speak  of  other  unmentionable  things." 

Amid  all  these  hardships  he  was  consoled  by  the  thought 
of  how  much  his  presence  and  ministrations  meant  to  the 
poor  fellows  around  him.  "  Though  the  life  at  times  is 
rough  and  hard  enough  (at  least  the  floor  feels  so  at  night) 
there  are  many  consolations  for  a  priest,  not  the  least  of 
which  is  the  number  of  converts,  both  officers  and  men 
coming  into  the  Church.  Many  of  them  have  never  been 
in  contact  with  Catholics  before,  knew  nothing  about  the 
grandeur  and  beauty  of  our  religion,  and  above  all  have 
been  immensely  impressed  by  what  the  Catholic  priests, 
^alone  of  all  the  chaplains  at  the  Front,  are  able  to  do  for 
their  men,  both  living  and  dying.  It  is  an  admitted  fact, 
that  the  Irish  Catholic  soldier  is  the  bravest  and  best  man 
in  a  fight,  but  few  know  that  he  draws  that  courage  from 
the  strong  Faith  with  which  he  is  filled  and  the  help  which 
comes  from  the  exercise  of  his  religion." 

He  was  naturally  solicitous  for  his  men,  especially  as  the 
months  dragged  on  with  no  intermission  save  a  few  brief 
days  spent  in  reserve  amid  the  ruins  of  a  shattered  village 
behind  the  lines.  It  was  customary  for  a  division  which 
had  been  in  the  line  for  three  months  to  get  back  to  the 
base  for  a  month's  rest.  The  other  divisions  round  the 
Sixteenth  went  back  and  returned,  but  the  Irishmen  were 
now  six  months  without  relief.  "  I  suppose,"  writes 
Fr.  Doyle,  "it  is  a  compliment  to  the  fighting  qualities  of 
the  1 6th  Division,  for  we  are  holding  the  most  critical  sector 
of  the  line  ;  but  it  is  a  compliment  all  of  us  would  willingly 
forego."  "As  a  matter  of  fact,"  he  adds,  "  the  very  night 
we  handed  over  a  certain  portion  of  the  Front  to  another 


ANOTHER  SPELL  AT  THE  FRONT  251 

regiment,  the  Germans — how  did  they  know  of  the 
change  ? — came  over  and  captured  the  trenches.  So  we 
had  to  go  back  again."  Still  the  unfortunate  Irishmen 
could  not  be  kept  in  the  trenches  for  ever.  And  on  25th 
August  came  the  welcome  order  to  move  to  the  rear.  Sudden 
and  secret  as  the  order  was,  the  Germans  knew  all  about 
it  and  put  up  a  board  with  the  message,  "  Good-bye,  i6th 
Division,  we  shall  give  it  hot  to  the  English  when  they  come." 
The  Irish  did  their  work  well  in  Loos  ;  in  the  six  months 
they  did  not  lose  a  trench  or  a  yard  of  ground ;  and  out 
of  the  Division  of  20,000  over  15,000  men  (including,  of 
course,  many  sick  and  slightly  wounded)  had  passed  through 
the  doctor's  hands. 

Back  through  Amiens  to  the  rear  away  from  the  sounds 
and  sights  of  war.  These  long  marches,  made  more  trying 
by  official  incompetence,  were  very  exhausting  As  usual 
Fr.  Doyle  was  where  his  Master  would  have  been,  following 
the  Ignatian  ideal  of  mecum  laborare  in  the  Kingdom  of 
Christ.  "  The  officers,  from  captain  up,"  he  writes,  "  have 
horses  ;  but  I  prefer  to  shoulder  my  pack  and  foot  it  with 
my  boys,  for  I  know  they  like  it,  and  besides  I  don't  see 
why  I  should  not  share  a  little  of  their  hardship." 
Incidentally  we  learn  that  he  had  been  carrying  a  young 
lad's  equipment  in  addition  to  his  own,  all  day  too  without 
dinner  or  supper.  It  is  clear  that  trie  saints  are  incorrigibly 
'  imprudent.' 

(7.)  THE  SOMME. 

The  men  of  the  i6th  Division  were  under  the  impression 
that,  after  having  done  so  much  more  than  their  share, 
they  were  making  their  way  steadily  towards  the  place 
appointed  for  their  well  deserved  rest.  But  as  a  matter 
of  fact  many  of  these  brave  fellows  were  never  to  enjoy 
that  promised  time  of  quiet  on  this  earth,  for  their  road 
was  leading  them  to  the  battle  field  of  the  Somme.  By 
way  of  rest  they  were  to  be  asked  to  achieve  what  English 
regiments  had  failed  to  do.  They  did  it ;  Guillemont  and 
Ginchy  were  taken  ;  and  many  an  Irish  hearth  is  the  poorer 
and  lonelier  "  But  'twas  a  famous  victory." 


252  FATHER  WILLIAM   DOYLE,   SJ. 

The  opening  sentences  of  Fr.  Doyle's  next  letter  to  his 
father  (nth  September,  1916)  sufficiently  indicate  the  terrible 
nature  of  the  ordeal  which  we  are  about  to  recount. 

"  I  have  been  through  the  most  terrible  experience  of  my 
whole  life,  in  comparison  with  which  all  that  I  have  witnessed 
or  suffered  since  my  arrival  in  France  seems  of  little  con 
sequence  ;  a  time  of  such  awful  horror  that  I  believe  if  the 
good  God  had  not  helped  me  powerfully  by  His  grace  I 
could  never  have  endured  it.  To  sum  up  all  in  one  word, 
for  the  past  week  I  have  been  living  literally  in  hell,  amid 
sights  and  scenes  and  dangers  enough  to  test  the  courage 
of  the  bravest ;  but  through  it  all  my  confidence  and  trust 
in  our  Blessed  Lord's  protection  never  wavered,  for  I  felt 
that  somehow,  even  if  it  needed  a  miracle,  He  would  bring 
me  safe  through  the  furnace  of  tribulation.  I  was  hit  three 
times,  on  the  last  occasion  by  a  piece  of  shell  big  enough  to 
have  taken  off  half  my  leg,  but  wonderful  to  relate  I  did 
not  receive  a  wound  or  scratch — there  is  some  advantage, 
you  see,  in  having  a  good  thick  skin  !  As  you  can  imagine, 
I  am  pretty  well  worn  out  and  exhausted,  rather  shaken 
by  the  terrific  strain  of  those  days  and  nights  without  any 
real  sleep  or  repose,  with  nerves  tingling,  ever  on  the  jump, 
like  the  rest  of  us  ;  but  it  is  all  over  now  ;  we  are  well  behind 
the  firing  line  on  our  way  at  last  for  a  good  long  rest,  which 
report  says  will  be  enjoyed  close  to  the  sea." 

His  previous  letter  had  been  written  from  Bray,1  near 
Albert,  on  the  river  Somme,  where  there  was  a  huge  con 
centration  of  French  and  British  forces.  Each  morning 
Fr.  Doyle  said  Mass  in  the  open  and  gave  Holy  Communion 
to  hundreds  of  the  men.  "  I  wish  you  could  have  seen 
them,"  he  writes,  "  kneeling  there  before  the  whole  camp, 
recollected  and  prayerful — a  grand  profession  surely  of  the 
faith  that  is  in  them.  More  than  one  non-Catholic  was 
touched  by  it ;  and  it  made  many  a  one,  I  am  sure,  turn  to 
God  in  the  hour  of  need."  On  the  evening  of  Sunday, 
3rd  September,  just  as  they  were  sitting  down  to  dinner, 
spread  on  a  pile  of  empty  shell  boxes,  urgent  orders  reached 
the  1 6th  Division  to  march  in  ten  minutes.  '  There  was 
only  time,"  says  Fr.  Doyle,  "  to  grab  a  slice  of  bread  and  hack 

I. — See  map  p.  223. 


THE   SOMME  255 

off  a  piece  of  meat  before  rushing  to  get  one's  kit."  "  As 
luck  would  have  it,"  he  adds,  "  I  had  had  nothing  to  eat 
since  the  morning  and  was  famished,  but  there  was  nothing 
for  it  but  to  tighten  one's  belt  and  look  happy."  There 
are  occasions  when  even  the  world  can  appreciate  Jesuit 
obedience  !  After  a  couple  of  hours'  tramp  a  halt  was 
called  and  an  order  came  to  stock  all  impedimenta — kits, 
packs,  blankets,  etc., — by  the  side  of  the  road.  Fr.  Doyle, 
it  is  almost  needless  to  say,  held  on  to  his  Mass  things,  though 
to  his  great  sorrow  for  five  days  he  was  unable  to  offer  the 
Holy  Sacrifice — "  the  biggest  privation  of  the  whole 
campaign." 

The  night  was  spent  without  covering  or  blankets,  sitting 
on  the  ground.  Next  morning  there  was  a  short  march 
over  the  brow  of  a  hill  and  down  into  a  valley  still  nearer 
to  the  front  line.  It  was  a  great  change  from  the  trench 
life  of  the  past  six  months,  since  at  Loos  for  days  one  never 
saw  a  soul  overground  and  all  guns  were  carefully  hidden 
But  here  there  were  scores  and  hundreds  of  cannon  of  all 
shapes  and  sizes,  standing  out  boldly  in  the  fields  and 
"  roaring  as  if  they  had  swallowed  a  dish  of  uncooked  shells." 
Amid  this  infernal  din  and  never-ending  roar  and  crash  of 
bursting  shells,  men  and  horses  moved  about  as  if  there 
were  no  war.  In  this  valley  of  death  Fr.  Doyle's  men  had 
their  first  casualties  and  he  himself  had  a  very  narrow  escape 
which  is  best  described  in  his  own  words. 

"  I  was  standing  about  100  yards  away  watching  a  party 
of  my  men  crossing  the  valley,  when  I  saw  the  earth  under 
their  feet  open  and  the  twenty  men  disappear  in  a  cloud 
of  smoke,  while  a  column  of  stones  and  clay  was  shot  a  couple 
of  hundred  feet  into  the  air.  A  big  German  shell  by  the 
merest  chance  had  landed  in  the  middle  of  the  party.  I 
rushed  down  the  slope,  getting  a  most  unmerciful  '  whack  ' 
between  the  shoulders,  probably  from  a  falling  stone,  as  it 
did  not  wound  me,  but  it  was  no  time  to  think  of  one's  safety. 
I  gave  them  all  a  General  Absolution,  scraped  the  clay  from 
the  faces  of  a  couple  of  buried  men  who  were  not  wounded, 
and  then  anointed  as  many  of  the  poor  lads  as  I  could  reach. 
Two  of  them  had  no  faces  to  anoint  and  others  were  ten 
feet  under  the  clay,  but  a  few  were  living  still.  By  this 


254  FATHER  WILLIAM    DOYLE,  SJ. 

time  half  a  dozen  volunteers  had  run  up  and  were  digging 
the  buried  men  out.  War  may  be  horrible,  but  it  certainly 
brings  out  the  best  side  of  a  man's  character ;  over  and 
over  again  I  have  seen  men  risking  their  lives  to  help  or 
save  a  comrade,  and  these  brave  fellows  knew  the  risk  they 
were  taking,  for  when  a  German  shell  falls  in  a  certain  place, 
you  clear  as  quickly  as  you  can  since  several  more  are  pretty 
certain  to  land  close.  It  was  a  case  of  duty  for  me,  but 
real  courage  for  them.  We  dug  like  demons  for  our  lads' 
lives  and  our  own,  to  tell  the  truth,  for  every  few  minutes 
another  '  iron  pill '  from  a  Krupp  gun  would  come  tearing 
down  the  valley,  making  our  very  hearts  leap  into  our  mouths. 
More  than  once  we  were  well  sprinkled  with  clay  and  stones, 
but  the  cup  of  cold  water  promise  was  well  kept,  and  not 
one  of  the  party  received  a  scratch.  We  got  three  buried 
men  out  alive,  not  much  the  worse  for  their  trying  experience, 
but  so  thoroughly  had  the  shell  done  its  work  that  there 
was  not  a  single  wounded  man  in  the  rest  of  the  party ;  all 
had  gone  to  a  better  land.  As  I  walked  back  I  nearly  shared 
the  fate  of  my  boys,  but  somehow  escaped  again,  and  pulled 
out  two  more  lads  who  were  only  buried  up  to  the  waist 
and  uninjured.  Meanwhile  the  regiment  had  been  ordered 
back  to  a  safer  position  on  the  hill,  and  we  were  able  to 
breathe  once  more." 

The  men's  resting  place  that  night  consisted  of  some  open 
shell  holes.  "  To  make  matters  worse,"  writes  Fr.  Doyle 
"  we  were  posted  fifteen  yards  in  front  of  two  batteries  of 
field  guns,  while  on  our  right  a  little  further  off  were  half 
a  dozen  huge  sixty-pounders ;  not  once  during  the  whole 
night  did  these  guns  cease  firing."  This  proximity  not  only 
contributed  an  ear-splitting  din  but  added  considerably  to 
the  men's  risk  owing  to  the  occasional  premature  bursting 
of  the  shells.  In  spite  of  these  discomforts  and  the  torrential 
downpour  of  rain,  the  men  slept  out  of  sheer  weariness. 
"  I  could  not  help  thinking,"  says  Fr.  Doyle,  "  of  Him  who 
often  had  not  where  to  lay  His  head,  and  it  helped  me  to 
resemble  Him  a  little." 

At  last  came  the  expected  order  to  advance  at  once  and 
hold  the  front  line,  the  part  assigned  being  Leuze  Wood, 
the  scene  of  much  desperate  fighting.  Fr.  Doyle  may  be 
left  to  describe  the  journey  and  the  scene. 


THE  SOMME  255 

"  The  first  part  of  our  journey  lay  through  a  narrow  trench, 
the  floor  of  which  consisted  of  deep  thick  mud,  and  the  bodies 
of  dead  men  trodden  under  foot.  It  was  horrible  beyond 
description,  but  there  was  no  help  for  it,  and  on  the  half- 
rotten  corpses  of  our  own  brave  men  we  marched  in  silence, 
everyone  busy  with  his  own  thoughts.  I  shall  spare  you 
gruesome  details,  but  you  can  picture  one's  sensations  as 
one  felt  the  ground  yield  under  one's  foot,  and  one  sank 
down  through  the  body  of  some  poor  fellow. 

"  Half  an  hour  of  this  brought  us  out  on  the  open  into 
the  middle  of  the  battlefield  of  some  days  previous.  The 
wounded,  at  least  I  hope  so,  had  all  been  removed,  but  the 
dead  lay  there  stiff  and  stark,  with  open  staring  eyes,  just 
as  they  had  fallen.  Good  God,  such  a  sight !  I  had  tried 
to  prepare  myself  for  this,  but  all  I  had  read  or  pictured 
gave  me  little  idea  of  the  reality.  Some  lay  as  if  they  were 
sleeping  quietly,  others  had  died  in  agony,  or  had  had  the 
life  crushed  out  of  them  by  mortal  fear,  while  the  whole 
ground,  every  foot  of  it,  was  littered  with  heads  or  limbaj 
or  pieces  of  torn  human  bodies.  In  the  bottom  of  one  hole 
lay  a  British  and  a  German  soldier,  locked  in  a  deadly 
embrace,  neither  had  any  weapon,  but  they  had  fought  on 
to  the  bitter  end.  Another  couple  seemed  to  have  realised 
that  the  horrible  struggle  was  none  of  their  making,  and 
that  they  were  both  children  of  the  same  God ;  they  had 
died  hand-in-hand  praying  for  and  forgiving  one  another. 
A  third  face  caught  my  eye,  a  tall,  strikingly  handsome 
young  German,  not  more,  I  should  say,  than  eighteen.  He 
lay  there  calm  and  peaceful,  with  a  smile  of  happiness  on 
his  face,  as  if  he  had  had  a  glimpse  of  Heaven  before  he  died. 
Ah,  if  only  his  poor  mother  could  have  seen  her  boy  it  would 
have  soothed  the  pain  of  her  broken  heart. 

"  We  pushed  on  rapidly  through  that  charnel  house,  for 
the  stench  was  fearful,  till  we  stumbled  across  a  sunken 
road.  Here  the  retreating  Germans  had  evidently  made  a 
last  desperate  stand,  but  had  been  caught  by  our  artillery 
fire.  The  dead  lay  in  piles,  the  blue  grey  uniforms  broken 
by  many  a  khaki-clad  body.  I  saw  the  ruins  of  what  was 
evidently  the  dressing  station,  judging  by  the  number  of 
bandaged  men  about ;  but  a  shell  had  found  them  out  even 
here  and  swept  them  all  into  the  net  of  death. 


256  FATHER  WILLIAM   DOYLE,   SJ. 

"A  halt  for  a  few  minutes  gave  me  the  opportunity  I  was 
waiting  for.  I  hurried  along  from  group  to  group,  and  as 
I  did  the  men  fell  on  their  knees  to  receive  absolution.  A 
few  words  to  give  them  courage,  for  no  man  knew  if  he  would 
return  alive.  A  '  God  bless  and  protect  you,  boys,'  and  I 
passed  on  to  the  next  company.  As  I  did,  a  soldier  stepped 
out  of  the  ranks,  caught  me  by  the  hand,  and  said  :  '  I  am 
not  a  Catholic,  sir,  but  I  want  to  thank  you  for  that  beautiful 
prayer.'  The  regiments  moved  on  to  the  wood,  while  the 
doctor  and  I  took  up  our  positions  in  the  dressing  station 
to  wait  for  the  wounded.  This  was  a  dug-out  on  the  hill 
facing  Leuze  Wood,  and  had  been  in  German  occupation 
the  previous  afternoon. 

"  To  give  you  an  idea  of  my  position.  From  where  I 
stood  the  ground  sloped  down  steeply  into  a  narrow  valley, 
while  on  the  opposite  hill  lay  the  wood,  half  of  which  the 
Fusiliers  were  holding,  the  Germans  occupying  the  rest ; 
the  distance  across  being  so  short  I  could  easily  follow  the 
movements  of  our  men  without  a  glass. 

"  Fighting  was  going  on  all  round,  so  that  I  was  kept 
busy,  but  all  the  time  my  thoughts  and  my  heart  were  with 
my  poor  boys  in  the  wood  opposite.  They  had  reached  it 
safely,  but  the  Germans  somehow  had  worked  round  the 
sides  and  temporarily  cut  them  off.  No  food  or  water 
could  be  sent  up,  while  ten  slightly  wounded  men  who  tried 
to  come  back  were  shot  down,  one  after  another.  To  make 
matters  worse,  our  own  artillery  began  to  shell  them,  inflicting 
heavy  losses,  and  though  repeated  messages  were  sent  back, 
continued  doing  so  for  a  long  time.  It  appears  the  guns 
had  fired  so  much  that  they  were  becoming  worn  out,  making 
the  shells  fall  300  yards  short 

"  Under  these  circumstances  it  would  be  madness  to  try 
and  reach  the  wood,  but  my  heart  bled  for  the  wounded 
and  dying  lying  there  alone.  When  dusk  came  I  made  up 
my  mind  to  try  and  creep  through  the  valley,  more  especially 
as  the  fire  had  slackened  very  much,  but  once  again  the 
Providence  of  God  watched  over  me.  As  I  was  setting  out 
I  met  a  sergeant  who  argued  the  point  with  me.  '  You 
can  do  little  good,  Father/  he  said,  '  down  there  in  the  wood, 
and  will  only  run  a  great  risk.  Wait  till  night  comes  and 


THE   SOMME  257 

then  we  shall  be  able  to  bring  all  the  wounded  up  here.  Don't 
forget  that,  though  we  have  plenty  of  officers  and  to  spare, 
we  have  only  one  priest  to  look  after  us.'  The  poor  fellow 
was  so  much  in  earnest  I  decided  to  wait  a  little  at  least. 
It  was  well  I  did  so,  for  shortly  afterwards  the  Germans 
opened  a  terrific  bombardment  and  launched  a  counter 
attack  on  the  wood.  Some  of  the  Cornwalls,  who  were 
holding  a  corner  of  the  wood,  broke  and  ran,  jumping  right 
on  top  of  the  Fusiliers.  Brave  Paddy  from  the  Green  Isle 
stood  his  ground  ....  and  drove  the  Germans  back  with 
cold  steel. 

"  Meanwhile  we  on  the  opposite  hill  were  having  a  most 
unpleasant  time.  A  wounded  man  had  reported  that  the 
enemy  had  captured  the  wood.  Communication  was  broken 
and  Headquarters  had  no  information  of  what  was  going 
on.  At  that  moment  an  orderly  dashed  in  with  the  startling 
news  that  the  Germans  were  in  the  valley,  and  actually 
climbing  our  hill.  Jerusalem  !  We  non-combatants  might 
easily  escape  to  the  rear,  but  who  would  protect  the 
wounded  ?  They  could  not  be  abandoned.  If  it  were  day 
light  the  Red  Cross  would  give  us  protection,  but  in  the 
darkness  of  the  night  the  enemy  would  not  think  twice 
about  flinging  a  dozen  bombs  down  the  steps  of  the  dug-out. 
I  looked  round  at  the  bloodstained  walls  and  shivered.  A 
nice  coward,  am  I  not  ?  Thank  God,  the  situation  was  not 
quite  so  bad  as  reported  ;  our  men  got  the  upper  hand, 
and  drove  back  the  attack,  but  that  half-hour  of  suspense 
will  live  long  in  my  memory." 

Unfortunately,  Fr.  Doyle  gives  no  further  details  of  his 
experiences  except  a  brief  account  of  Saturday,  Qth 
September.  In  a  subsequent  letter  (nth  October)  he  des 
cribed  a  Mass  for  the  Dead  which  he  celebrated  at  the  Somme, 
apparently  on  this  Saturday  morning.  "  By  cutting  a  piece 
out  of  the  side  of  the  trench,"  he  says,  "  I  was  just  able  to 
stand  in  front  of  my  tiny  altar,  a  biscuit  box  supported  on 
two  German  bayonets.  God's  angels,  no  doubt,  were 
hovering  overhead,  but  so  were  the  shells,  hundreds  of  them, 
and  I  was  a  little  afraid  that  when  the  earth  shook  with  the 
crash  of  the  guns,  the  chalice  might  be  overturned.  Round 
about  me  on  every  side  was  the  biggest  congregation  I  ever 


258  FATHER   WILLIAM   DOYLE,   S.J. 

had  :  behind  the  altar,  on  either  side,  and  in  front,  row 
after  row,  sometimes  crowding  one  upon  the  other,  but  all 
quiet  and  silent,  as  if  they  were  straining  their  ears  to  catch 
every  syllable  of  that  tremendous  act  of  Sacrifice — but  every 
man  was  dead  !  Some  had  lain  there  for  a  week  and  were 
foul  and  horrible  to  look  at,  with  faces  black  and  green. 
Others  had  only  just  fallen,  and  seemed  rather  sleeping 
than  dead,  but  there  they  lay,  for  none  had  time  to  bury 
them,  brave  fellows,  every  one,  friend  and  foe  alike,  while 
I  held  in  my  unworthy  hands  the  God  of  Battles,  their  Creator 
and  their  Judge,  and  prayed  Him  to  give  rest  to  their  souls. 
Surely  that  Mass  for  the  Dead,  in  the  midst  of,  and  surrounded 
by  the  dead,  was  an  experience  not  easily  to  be  forgotten." 

It  was  arranged  that  on  the  gth  September  the  i6th 
Division  should  storm  Ginchy,  a  strong  village  against  which 
previous  English  attacks  had  failed.  The  8th  Fusiliers, 
having  lost  so  many  officers,  were  held  in  reserve.  From 
seven  in  the  morning  till  five  in  the  evening  the  guns  played 
on  Ginchy.  "  Shortly  before  five,"  writes  Fr.  Doyle,  "  I 
went  up  to  the  hill  in  front  of  the  town,  and  was  just  in  time 
to  see  our  men  leap  from  their  trenches  and  dart  up  the 
slope,  only  to  be  met  by  a  storm  of  bullets  from  concealed 
machine  guns.  It  was  my  first  real  view  of  a  battle  at  close 
quarters,  an  experience  not  easily  forgotten.  Almost  simul 
taneously  all  our  guns,  big  and  little,  opened  a  terrific  barrage 
behind  the  village,  to  prevent  the  enemy  bringing  up  rein 
forcements,  and  in  half  a  minute  the  scene  was  hidden  by 
the  smoke  of  thousands  of  bursting  shells,  British  and 
German.  The  wild  rush  of  our  Irish  lads  swept  the  Germans 
away  like  chaff.  The  first  line  went  clean  through  the  village 
and  out  the  other  side,  and  were  it  not  for  the  officers,  acting 
under  orders,  would  certainly  be  in  Berlin  by  this  time  ! 
Meanwhile  the  supports  had  cleared  the  cellars  and  dug 
outs  of  their  defenders ;  the  town  was  ours  and  all  was 
well.  At  the  same  time  a  feeling  of  uneasiness  was  about. 
Rumour  said  some  other  part  of  the  line  had  failed  to  advance, 
the  Germans  were  breaking  through,  etc.  One  thing  was 
certain,  the  guns  had  not  ceased.  Something  was  not 
going  well." 

About  nine  o'clock  the  Fusiliers  were  getting  ready  to  be 


THE   SOMME  259 

relieved  by  another  regiment.  But  one  further  experience 
was  to  be  theirs.  There  came  an  urgent  order  to  hurry 
up  to  the  Front.  "To  my  dying  day,"  says  Fr.  Doyle, 
"  I  shall  never  forget  that  half -hour,  as  we  pushed  across 
the  open,  our  only  light  the  flash  of  bursting  shells,  tripping 
over  barbed  wire,  stumbling  and  walking  on  the  dead, 
expecting  every  moment  to  be  blown  into  Eternity.  We 
were  halted  in  a  trench  at  the  rear  of  the  village,  and  there 
till  four  in  the  morning  we  lay  on  the  ground  listening  to  the 
roar  of  the  guns  and  the  scream  of  the  shells  flying  overhead, 
not  knowing  if  the  next  moment  might  not  be  our  last. 
Fortunately,  we  were  not  called  upon  to  attack,  and  our 
casualties  were  very  slight.  But  probably  because  the 
terrible  strain  of  the  past  week  was  beginning  to  tell,  or  the 
Lord  wished  to  give  me  a  little  merit  by  suffering  more, 
the  agony  and  fear  and  suspense  of  those  six  hours  seemed 
to  surpass  the  whole  of  the  seven  days. 

"  We  were  relieved  on  Sunday  morning,  loth,  at  four 
o'clock,  and  crawled  back  (I  can  use  no  other  word)  to  the 
camp  in  the  rear.  My  feet,  perhaps,  are  the  most  painful 
of  all,  as  we  were  not  allowed  to  remove  our  boots  even  at 
night.  But  otherwise  I  am  really  well,  thank  God,  and  a 
few  days'  good  rest  will  make  me  better  than  ever.  At 
present  we  march  one  day  and  rest  the  next,  but  I  do  not 
know  where." 

On  23rd  September  Fr.  Doyle  writes  to  say  that,  by  rail 
and  motor  lorries  and  especially  by  "  shank's  mare,"  they 
had  travelled  into  Normandy — but  not  for  their  month's 
rest  so  long  overdue.  Within  a  week  they  were  over  the 
frontier  again  into  Belgium,  thankful  at  least  to  have  a 
quieter  section  of  the  line  than  that  at  Loos,  a  place  where 
in  fact  there  seemed  to  be  a  sort  of  mutual  understanding 
to  keep  quiet.  Here  Fr.  Doyle  went  through  the  ordinary 
chaplain's  work  until  early  in  November  when  he  was  able 
to  come  home  on  a  week's  leave  of  absence. 


260  FATHER   WILLIAM   DOYLE,   S.J. 


(8.)  CHRISTMAS  AT  THE  FRONT. 

All  through  this  terrible  time  Fr.  Doyle's  inner  life  was 
the  same  continuous  persevering  effort  at  self -conquest, 
immolation  and  union.  Some  of  his  thoughts  and  resolutions 
he,  luckily  for  us,  scribbled  down  in  his  little  notebook.  On 
loth  August  he  records  that  he  is  constantly  irritated  by  the 
ceaseless  annoyances  and  inconveniences  of  his  life.  So  he 
resolved — thus  carrying  out  the  advice  he  had  often  given 
to  others —  :  "  (i)  to  take  every  single  detail  of  my  life  as 
done  by  Him  ;  (2)  lovingly  to  accept  it  all  in  the  spirit  of 
immolation  that  my  will  and  wishes  may  be  annihilated  ; 
(3)  never  to  complain  or  grumble  even  to  myself  ;  (4)  to 
try  and  let  everyone  do  with  me  as  he  pleases,  looking  on 
myself  as  a  slave  to  be  trampled  on."  "  If  I  kept  these 
rules,"  he  added,  "  I  should  never  be  annoyed  or  upset 
about  anything  and  should  never  lose  my  peace  of  soul." 
Less  than  a  week  after  his  fearful  experience  at  the  Somme— 
surely  sufficient  to  justify  a  long  respite  from  strain  and 
suffering — we  find  this  entry  (i5th  September)  :  "Again  I 
felt  most  strongly  urged  to  make  the  50,000  aspirations 
the  penance  of  my  life,  and  to  force  myself,  no  matter  at 
what  cost,  to  get  through  them  daily."  A  month  later  he 
made  another  effort  to  add  to  the  inevitable  hardships  of 
his  life  by  renewing  his  resolution  to  bear  '  little  sufferings  ' 
without  relief.  And  on  his  return  from  his  short  much- 
needed  visit  home,  he  reproached  himself  thus  :  '  While 
away  on  leave  I  deliberately  resisted  the  urging  of  the  Holy 
Spirit  to  do  many  hard  things,  e.g.  to  rise  early  and  get  all 
the  Masses  I  could,  make  the  Holy  Hour,  etc.  I  did  none 
of  these  things  and  in  consequence  was  very  unhappy.  I 
never  have  peace  unless  I  am  going  against  myself.  I  notice 
a  continual  interior  urging  to  resume  the  marking  of  '  hard 
things,'  because  when  I  give  up  doing  so  the  acts  almost 
cease."  On  I3th  December  he  reverts  to  this  thought  in 
the  following  record :  "  Since  I  became  chaplain  I  have 
grown  very  lazy  and  unmortified,  the  cause  of  much 
unhappiness  and  remorse  to  me.  My  excuse  is  that  my 


Fr.   William  Doyle,   S.J.,  as  Military  Chaplain. 


CHRISTMAS   AT  THE   FRONT  261 

present  life  is  so  hard  and  repugnant  that  I  need  these  little 
indulgences.  Then  I  think  of  Blessed  Charles- Spinola,  for 
example,  amid  the  horrors  of  his  prison,  practising  great 
austerities,  fasting,  etc.,  which  make  me  ashamed  of  my 
cowardice.  The  Holy  Spirit  is  constantly  urging  me  not 
to  let  this  precious  time  slip  by,  when  even  a  small  sacrifice 
is  worth  many  a  big  one  at  other  times.  I  see  the  only 
chance  is  to  mark  down  the  special  acts  I  do,  for  though 
I  hate  doing  so,  I  know  it  is  an  immense  help,  and  otherwise 
nothing  is  done.  I  have  begun  the  '  Book  of  Little  Sacrifices  ' 
again  to-day." 

Another  entry,  made  ten  days  later,  may  be  quoted  to 
show  how  difficult  he  really  found  that  affability  and  calm 
ness  which  others  remarked  in  him  :  'I  was  very  much 
annoyed  because  someone  burnt  the  floor  of  my  dug-out 
and  also  on  finding  my  candles  had  been  taken.  On  arriving 
at  Locre  I  found  a  second  bed  in  my  room  and  heard  that 
X  was  coming.  This  upset  and  worried  me  terribly  till  I 
realized  that  all  these  things  were  God's  doing  and  that 
He  wished  to  annihilate  my  will,  so  that  I  should  never  feel 
even  the  smallest  interior  disturbance  no  matter  what  might 
happen.  I  have  secretly  given  permission  to  everyone  to 
treat  me  as  he  wishes  and  to  trample  on  me  ;  why  then 
should  I  not  try  and  live  up  to  this  life  ?  " 

Some  quotations  from  letters  written  at  this  time  to  a 
few  intimate  friends  and  relatives  will  help  to  give  us  a 
further  glimpse  of  that  inner  life  which  was  naturally  not 
revealed  in  the  letters  which  he  wrote  home  and  destined 
for  private  circulation  among  a  circle  of  acquaintances. 

"  I  am  getting  to  feel  that  God  does  not  want  the  sacrifice 
of  my  life,  and  that  I  shall  return  safely  to  do  His  work. 
Some  time  ago  I  was  feeling  very  depressed  because  that 

I. — A  few  months  previously  he  had  come  across  an  account  of  Luisa  de  Carvajal 
who,  as  Fr.  Uoyle  remarked  in  a  letter,  'made  herself  the  slave  of  her  two  maids.' 
(Cf.  the  C.T.S.  pamphlet,  A  Spanish  Heroine  in  England.)  So  he  wrote  in  a  letter 
dated  26th  October  :  "I  am  slowly  learning  the  lesson  Jesus  brought  me  out  here  to 
teach  me.  The  first  and  greatest  is  that  I  must  have  no  will  of  my  own,  only  Ilis, 
and  this  in  all  things.  It  is  hard  to  let  everyone  walk  on  you,  even  your  own  servant ; 
but  Jesus  asks  this  and  I  try  to  let  Him  arrange  all  as  He  pleases.  Result :  yesterday 
I  got  no  dinner,  though  I  foresaw  this  would  be  the  consequence  of  this  planning." 
"My  genius  of  an  orderly,"  he  wrote  on  22nd  December,  "fried  meat  and  pudding 
together  and,  with  a  smile  of  triumph  on  his  face,  brought  both  on  the  same  plate  to 
my  dug-out.  He  is  a  good  poor  chap,  but  I  would  not  recommend  him  as  a  cook." 


262  FATHER  WILLIAM  DOYLE,   S.J. 

sacrifice  was  greater  than  even  you  know,  when  my  eyes 
fell  on  these  words  :  '  The  essence  of  the  act  of  sacrifice 
did  not  consist  in  the  slaying  of  the  victim  but  in  its  offering.' 
That  seemed  to  make  me  realize  that  God  was  satisfied 
with  my  willingness  to  die  and  that  He  had  granted  me  my 
heart's  desire  to  be  a  martyr,  because  the  mere  act  of  dying 
would  add  little  to  the  crown  of  suffering  I  have  gone 
through.  At  the  same  time  I  feel,  oh !  with  what  joy  since 
it  is  for  Him,  that  I  have  still  very  much  to  face  and  that 
I  shall  have  the  happiness  of  being  wounded  and  shedding 
my  blood  for  Jesus.  I  try  to  crush  down  the  longing  and 
to  wish  only  what  He  wishes.  One  word  more  about  self. 
You  have  guessed  my  little  secret  concerning  decorations. 
I  have  asked  God  that  I  may  not  receive  any.  For  my 
dear  Father's  sake  and  the  pleasure  it  would  give  my  loved 
ones  at  home  it  would  be  great  happiness  to  hear  I  had  been 
honoured.  But  I  have  made  the  sacrifice  of  this  to  God, 
and  so  though  my  name  has  again  gone  to  Head  Quarters, 
nothing  has  come  of  it." 

As  a  matter  of  fact,  however,  early  in  January  Fr.  Doyle 
was  awarded  the  Military  Cross  for  his  bravery  at  the  Somme. 
For  various  reasons  he  disliked  this  distinction  but  was 
glad  inasmuch  as  it  gave  pleasure  to  his  Father,  to  whom 
he  thus  wrote  on  4th  January  :  "I  am  sorry  these  rewards 
are  given  to  chaplains,  for  surely  he  would  be  a  poor  specimen 
of  the  Lord's  Anointed  who  would  do  ^his  work  for  such  a 
thing.  But  seeing  that  they  are  going  I  must  say  I  am  really 
glad  because  I  know  it  will  give  pleasure  to  an  '  old  soldier  ' 
at  home,  who  ought  long  ago  to  have  had  all  the  medals 
and  distinctions  ever  conferred."1 

Fr.  Doyle's  interests  and  happiness  lay  elsewhere.  '  They 
have  given  me  the  M.C.,"  he  said,  "  but  His  crosses  are 
far  more  welcome."  "  I  wonder,"  he  wrote  on  yth  November, 
"  I  wonder  is  there  a  happier  man  in  France  than  I  am. 
Just  now  Jesus  is  giving  me  great  joy  in  tribulation,  though 
conditions  of  living  are  about  as  uncomfortable  as  even 
S.  Teresa  could  wish — perpetual  rain,  oceans  of  mud,  damp, 
cold  and  a  plague  of  rats.  Yet  I  feel  that  all  this  is  a 
preparation  for  the  future  and  that  God  is  labouring  in  my 

I. — The  M.C.  was  subsequently  to  Fr.  Doyle's  death  presented  to  his  Father. 


CHRISTMAS   AT  THE   FRONT  263 

soul  for  ends  I  do  not  clearly  see  as  yet.  Sometimes  I  kneel 
down  with  outstretched  arms  and  pray  God,  if  it  is  a  part 
of  His  divine  plan,  to  rain  down  fresh  privations  and 
sufferings."  "  But,"  he  adds  with  a  characteristic  touch  of 
whimsical  humour,  "  I  stopped  when  the  mud  wall  of  my 
little  hut  fell  in  upon  me — that  was  too  much  of  a 
good  joke  !  " 

The  idea  that  his  hard  experience  was  preparatory  to  some 
great  consummation  reappears  in  the  following  interesting 
letter  which  he  addressed  to  his  sister  on  igth  December, 
"  I  want  to  have  a  little  chat  with  you,"  he  begins  "  But 
you  must  promise  to  keep  to  yourself  what  I  write  to  you. 
Did  I  ever  tell  you  that  my  present  life  was  just  the  one 
I  dreaded  most,  being  from  a  natural  point  of  vie,w  repugnant 
to  me  in  every  way  ?  So  when  our  Blessed  Lord  sent  me 
to  the  Front  I  felt  '  angry  '  with  Him  for  taking  me  away 
from  a  sphere  of  work  where  the  possibilities,  at  least,  of 
doing  good  were  so  enormous,  and  giving  me  a  task  others 
could  perform  much  better.  It  was  only  after  a  time  that 
I  began  to  understand  that  '  God's  ways  are  not  our  ways, 
nor  His  thoughts  our  thoughts/  and  the  meaning  of  it  all 
began  to  dawn  on  me.  In  the  first  place  my  life,  especially 
here  in  the  trenches,  has  become  a  real  hermit's  one,  cave 
and  all,  a  mixture  of  solitude  with  a  touch  of  the  hardships 
of  a  foreign  mission.  The  result  has  been  that  God  has 
come  into  my  life  in  a  way  He  never  did  before.  He  has 
put  strange  thoughts  into  my  head  and  given  me  many 
lights  which  I  feel  have  changed  my  whole  outlook  upon 
life.  Then  I  feel,  oh,  so  strongly,  that  I  am  going  through 
a  kind  of  noviceship,  a  sort  of  spiritual  training,  for  some 
big  work  He  wants  me  to  do  in  the  future.  I  feel  every  day 
as  if  spiritual  strength  and  power  were  growing  in  my  soul. 
This  thought  of  being  trained  or  fitted  for  God's  work  (if 
I  may  use  the  comparison  with  all  reverence)  like  St.  John 
the  Baptist,  has  filled  me  with  extraordinary  joy  and  made 
me  delight  in  a  life  which  could  not  well  be  much  harder. 

"  Here  I  am  in  a  bit  of  a  hole  in  the  side  of  a  ditch,  so  low 
that  I  cannot  stand  upright  and  have  to  bend  my  head 
and  shoulders  during  Mass — I  can  tell  you  my  back  aches 
at  the  end.  My  only  window  is  the  door  (without  a  door) 


264  FATHER  WILLIAM   DOYLE,   S.J. 

through  which  the  wind  blows  day  and  night  ;  and  a  cold 
wind  it  is  just  now.  I  was  offered  a  little  stove  but  my 
*  Novice  Master  '  did  not  want  that  luxury,  for  it  never  came. 
My  home  would  be  fairly  dry  if  I  could  keep  out  the  damp 
mists  and  persuade  the  drops  of  water  not  to  trickle  from 
the  roof.  As  a  rule  I  sleep  well,  though  one  is  often  roused 
to  attend  some  poor  fellow  who  has  been  hit.  Still  it  is 
rather  reversing  the  order  of  things  to  be  glad  to  get  up 
in  the  morning  to  try  and  get  warm  ;  and  it  is  certainly 
not  pleasant  to  be  wakened  from  sweet  dreams  by  a  huge 
rat  burrowing  under  your  pillow  or  scampering  over  your 
face  !  This  has  actually  happened  to  me.  There  is  no 
great  luxury  in  the  matter  of  food,  as  you  may  well  guess. 
Recently,  owing  to  someone's  carelessness,  or  possibly  because 
the  bag  was  made  to  pay  toll  on  the  way  up  to  the  trenches, 
my  day's  rations  consisted  of  half  a  pot  of  jam  and  a 
piece  of  cheese  ! 

"  Through  all  this,  and  much  in  addition,  the  one  thought 
ever  in  my  mind  is  the  goodness  and  love  of  God  in  choosing 
me  to  lead  this  life,  and  thus  preparing  me  without  a  chance 
of  refusal  for  the  work  He  wants  doing.  No  amount  of 
reading  or  meditating  could  have  proved  to  me  so  con 
vincingly  that  a  life  of  privation,  suffering  and  sacrifice, 
accepted  lovingly  for  the  love  of  Jesus,  is  a  life  of  great  joy, 
and  surely  of  great  graces  You  see,  therefore,  that  I  have 
reasons  in  abundance  for  being  happy,  and  I  am  truly  so. 
Hence  you  ought  to  be  glad  that  I  have  been  counted  worthy 
to  suffer  something  for  our  dear  Lord,  the  better  to  be 
prepared  to  do  His  work.  Ask  Him,  won't  you,  that  I 
may  not  lose  this  golden  opportunity,  but  may  profit  to  the 
full  by  the  graces  He  is  giving  me.  Every  loving  wish  from 
my  heart  for  a  holy  and  happy  Xmas.  Let  our  gift  to  the 
divine  Babe  be  the  absolute  sacrifice  of  even  our  desires, 
so  that  His  Will  alone  may  be  done." 

One  final  quotation  will  be  given  from  an  intimate 
Christmas  letter,  so  that  while  we  are  following  Fr.  Doyle's 
outward  career,  so  heroic  and,  at  a  safe  distance,  so 
picturesque,  we  may  not  misread  the  real  man  within,  so 
hidden  and  unsuspected  and,  to  most  men,  so  unintelligible. 

"  I  certainly  did  not  think  this  time  twelve  months  (he 


CHRISTMAS   AT  THE   FRONT  265 

writes)  that  my  next  Christmas  greetings  to  you  would  be 
from  a  military  camp.  I  cannot  help  wondering  where  my 
good  wishes  will  reach  you  from  when  another  year  has 
passed.  God  has  given  me  one  grace  at  least  since  I  came 
here.  I  feel  absolutely  in  His  Hands  and  joyous  in  the 
thought  that  no  matter  what  may  happen  it  will  be  all  for 
His  greater  glory.  Though  Christmas  Day  was  miserably 
wet,  the  Divine  Babe  filled  my  heart  with  joy  at  the  thought 
that  my  life  now  was  a  little  bit  at  least  more  like  to  His. 
I  am  learning  here  better  every  day  that  there  is  no  life 
of  happiness  like  one  full  of  '  hard  things  '  borne  for  love 
of  God,  For  some  time  past  I  have  felt,  I  know  not  why, 
an  intense  longing  for  holiness  at  any  price.  I  wonder 
what  the  price  is  ?  Do  you  ever  ask  God  to  make  me  a 
saint  ?  No  use  asking  for  miracles,  I  suppose  !  Well,  I 
shall  take  my  revenge  by  begging  holiness  for  you. 

"  In  some  ways  I  have  found  life  out  here  much  easier 
than  I  expected  and  in  other  respects  a  good  deal  more 
trying.  Still  if  I  get  only  a  little  bit  of  holiness  out  of  it 
all,  will  it  not  be  well  worth  it  all  ?  Jesus  knows  I  have 
only  one  wish  in  this  world — to  love  Him  and  Him  alone — 
for  the  rest  He  has  carte  blanche  to  do  as  He  pleases  in  my 
regard.  I  just  leave  myself  in  His  loving  Hands  and  so 
have  no  anxiety  or  care,  but  great  peace  of  soul.  I  am  off 
now  for  a  fortnight's  spell  in  the  trenches,  and  if  it  is  not 
to  be  Saint  Teresa's  mori  it  will  at  least  be  pati." 

This  is  not  an  inappropriate  place  for  inserting  an  excerpt 
from  a  similar  letter  though  it  was  written  some  months 
later  (March,  1917)  :  "  Two  great  lights  or  graces  seem  to 
have  come  to  me  as  a  result  of  my  present  life.  The  first 
is  that  God's  will  is  everything  to  me  now.  .  .  .  True, 
nature  rebels  at  times,  for  He  has  filled  me  with  such  a  longing 
to  labour  for  Him,  to  live  and  suffer  for  His  dear  sake,  that 
the  thought  of  death  is  very  bitter.  I  can  only  call  it  a 
living  martyrdom.  But  I  conquer  the  feeling  by  saying 
this  little  prayer  :  '  Take,  O  Lord,  and  receive  my  liberty, 
my  health  and  strength,  my  limbs,  my  flesh,  my  blood,  my 
very  life.  Do  with  me  just  as  You  wish;  I  embrace  all 
lovingly — suffering,  wounds,  death — if  only  it  will  glorify 
You  one  tiny  bit.'  That  always  brings  back  peace,  even 


266  FATHER   WILLIAM   DOYLE,   SJ. 

when  a  bullet  grazing  my  head  drives  home  the  reality  of 
the  offering.  The  second  grace  is  the  realisation  of  the 
immense  power  of  prayer — I  had  almost  said  it  is  everything. 
This  urging  to  a  constant  life  of  prayer  has  been  going  on 
for  years,  but  I  had  a  kind  of  scruple  about  '  wasting  time  ' 
in  this  way.  God  has  set  these  doubts  at  rest.  ...  I 
have  a  little  system  of  my  own  for  counting  my  prayers  ; 
to  represent  it  by  figures,  the  10,000  before  the  war  has 
grown  to  100,000  daily  now,  with  the  result  that  He  has 
entered  into  my  life  as  He  had  never  done  before." 

These  citations  will  suffice  to  demonstrate  the  perfect 
continuity  of  Fr.  Doyle's  inner  life  and  to  preclude  the 
possibility  of  imagining  any  discrepancy  between  the  later 
and  the  earlier  stages  of  his  ministry,  however  different 
be  the  setting. 

We  must  now  indicate  some  of  the  events  and  conditions 
which  intervened  before  his  next  home-coming  (igth 
February,  1917).  Early  in  December,  1916,  Fr.  Doyle  was 
changed  from  the  Irish  Fusiliers  to  the  8th  Dublins ; 
accordingly  he  was  henceforth  attached  to  the  48th  Brigade 
which  was  also  part  of  the  i6th  Division.  He  was  naturally 
sorry  to  part  with  his  men,  some  of  whom  cried  when  told 
that  he  was  leaving.  But  he  was  once  more  among  Irishmen 
and  quite  close  to  his  old  Battalion  in  the  line.  Fr.  Doyle 
was  not  far  from  the  convent  of  Locre  where  he  had  a  com 
fortable  week's  billet  when  his  six  days'  spell  in 'the  trenches 
was  done.  His  dug-out  merits  a  passing  notice.  Fr.  Doyle 
gives  a  humorous  description  :  "  Picture  a  good  respectable 
deep  Irish  ditch  with  plenty  of  water  and  mud  in  the 
bottom  ;  scrape  a  fair-sized  hole  in  the  bank,  cover  the  top 
with  some  sheets  of  iron,  pile  sandbags  on  top  ;  and  you 
have  my  dwelling.  The  door  serves  also  as  window  and  lets 
in  not  only  light  and  air,  but  stray  cats,  rats  galore  and  many 
creepy  crawly  beasties,  not  to  mention  rain,  snow,  and  at 
times  a  breeze  which  must  have  been  hatched  at  the  North 
Pole."  It  was  in  this  dug-out  that  Fr.  F.  M.  Browne,  S.J., 
met  Fr.  Doyle  on  the  evening  of  23rd  December,  1916,  when 
he  came  up  with  the  2nd  and  gth  Dublins  who  were  relieving 
the  8th  Dublins  and  R.  I.  Rifles  "  During  our  whole  time 
there,"  writes  Fr.  Browne,  "  we  relieved  each  other  in  this 


CHRISTMAS   AT  THE   FRONT  267 

way  every  eight  days  I  remember  how  decent  Fr.  Willie 
used  to  be,  coming  up  early  on  the  relief  days,  before  his 
Battalion  came  up,  in  order  that  I  might  get  away.  He 
knew  how  I  hated  it — and  I  did  not  hate  it  half  as  much 
as  he  did.  We  used  generally  to  confess  each  other  before 
leaving.  We  were  very  exact  about  waiting  for  each  other, 
so  that  I  do  not  think  the  (48th)  Brigade  was  ever  without 
a  priest  in  the  line."  A  curious  thing  about  this  chaplains' 
dug-out  was  that  it  was  No.  13  on  the  side  of  the  hill  where 
Strong  Point  13  was  situated.1  Moreover  the  two  chaplains 
always  violated  the  three  candle  superstition.  Yet,  in  spite 
of  the  fact  that  it  was  one  of  the  least  protected — there 
were  no  sandbags  on  portion  of  the  roof  and  only  two  rows 
on  the  sides — it  was  the  only  dug-out,  existing  in  Dec.  1916, 
which  was  still  untouched  when  the  position  was  evacuated 
on  7th  June,  1917.  The  men  used  to  say,  "  Little  Fr.  Doyle's 
dug-out  can't  be  hit  !  "  Whenever  there  was  heavy  firing, 
cooks  and  other  non-combatants  used  to  crowd  into  it. 
Once  when  Fr.  Doyle  hurriedly  returned  to  get  something 
he  had  forgotten,  he  found  twelve  men  squeezed  into  the 
little  dug-out  which  was  hardly  big  enough  to  contain  four  ! 

Though  this  interval  at  the  Front  was  comparatively  quiet, 
it  was  not  altogether  devoid  of  incidents.  For  example, 
one  day  in  December  Fr.  Doyle  had  just  finished  breakfast — 
principally  smoky  tea  tasting  of  petrol — when  he  heard  a 
shell  come  singing  overhead  with  that  peculiar  note  which 
to  the  experienced  betokens  proximity.  He  ran  to  the 
door — the  running  consisted  of  one  step — and  saw  the 
explosion  about  two  hundred  yards  away  at  the  foot  of  the 
hill.  Two  more  shells  came,  each  fifty  yards  shorter  in  range 
than  its  predecessor,  the  direct  line  of  fire  passing  through 
the  dug-out,  into  which  Fr.  Doyle  retired  and  anxiously 
awaited  the  unwelcome  visitor.  Fortunately  the  dug-out 
escaped  with  a  shower  of  stones  and  clay  on  the  roof.  "  It 
is  a  curious  thing,"  he  observes,  "  that  I  have  never  had  a 
moment's  hesitation  nor  ever  felt  fear  in  going  into  the 
greatest  danger  when  duty  called  and  some  poor  chap  needed 

I. — On  the  reverse  slope  of  the  ridge  running  along  the  valley  between  Wytschaete 
and  Kemmel  Hill.  See  map  p.  223 

2. — The  men  used  to  say  "  Little  Fr.  Doyle,"  the  adjective  denoting  endearment 
rather  than  stature — Fr.  Doyle  was  5ft.  loins,  high. 


258  FATHER   WILLIAM   DOYLE,    S.J. 

help.  But  to  sit  in  cold  blood,  so  to  speak,  and  to  wait 
to  be  blown  to  pieces  or  buried  by  a  crump  is  an  experience 
which  tests  one's  nerves  to  the  limit.  Thank  God,  I  have 
been  able  to  conceal  my  feelings  and  so  to  help  others  to 
despise  the  danger,  when  I  was  just  longing  to  take  to  my 
heels.  An  officer  said  to  me  at  the  Somme,  '  I  have  often 
envied  you  your  coolness  and  cheerfulness  in  hot  corners.' 
I  rather  surprised  him  by  saying  that  my  real  feeling  was 
abject  fear  and  I  often  shook  like  a  leaf."  That  same  after 
noon  another  big  shell  came  plump  down  close  to  where 
he  was  sitting  at  hi'  lunch.  "  Three  of  my  lads,"  he  recounts, 
"  came  tearing  in  to  my  dug-out ;  they  had  nearly  been 
sent  to  glory  and  felt  they  were  safe  with  the  priest.  The 
poor  priest  cracks  a  joke  or  two,  makes  them  forget  their 
terror,  and  goes  on  with  his  lunch  while  every  morsel  sticks 
in  his  throat  from  fear  and  dread  of  the  next  shell.  A 
moment  passes,  one,  two,  here  it  comes  ;  dead  silence  and 
anxious  faces  for  a  second,  and  then  we  all  laugh,  for  it  is 
one  of  our  own  shells  going  over.  Five  minutes  more  and 
we  know  all  danger  has  passed.  It  has  been  a  memorable 
day  for  me,  though  only  one  of  many  such  in  the  past." 

The  approach  of  Christmas  meant  the  arrival  of  many 
presents  to  Fr.  Doyle,  which,  needless  to  say,  soon  found 
their  way  to  the  Dublins.  "  L.  and  W.'s  gift  of  '  smokes,'  ' 
he  writes,  "  was  a  God-send.  The  parcel  arrived  in  the 
midst  of  pelting  rain  which  had  been  going  on  all  day.  I 
put  on  my  big  boots  and  coat,  and  trotted — or  I  should 
rather  say,  waded — up  to  the  front  line  and  gave  each  man 
a  handful.  You  would  not  believe  how  it  bucked  them  up 
or  how  welcome  that  smoke  was  to  the  brave  fellows,  as 
they  stood  there  in  mud  and  water,  soaked  through  and 
through,  hungry  and  sleepless.  '  Sure,  Father,  it's  little 
enough  to  bear  for  our  sins/  is  the  way  the  rough  lads  look 
at  their  hardships.  Almighty  God  would  be  a  queer  Goc 
if  He  did  not  forgive  and  forget  whatever  they  may  have 
done,  with  such  a  spirit  as  this." 

Christmas  itself  Fr.  Doyle  had  the  good  luck  of  spendim 
in  billets.  He  got  permission  from  General  Hickie  to  have 
Midnight  Mass  for  his  men  in  the  Convent.  The  chape 
was  a  fine  large  one,  as  in  pre-war  times  over  three  hundrec 


CHRISTMAS   AT   THE   FRONT  269 

boarders  and  orphans  were  resident  in  the  Convent ;  and 
by  opening  folding-doors  the  refectory  was  added  to  the 
chapel  and  thus  doubled  the  available  room.  An  hour 
before  Mass  every  inch  of  space  was  filled,  even  inside  the 
altar  rails  and  in  the  corridor,  while  numbers  had  to  remain 
in  the  open.  Word  had  in  fact  gone  round  about  the  Mass, 
and  men  from  other  battalions  came  to  hear  it,  some  having 
walked  several  miles  from  another  village.  Before  the  Mass 
there  was  strenuous  Confession-work.  '  We  were  kept  hard 
at  work  hearing  confessions  all  the  evening  till  nine  o'clock/* 
writes  Fr.  Doyle,  "  the  sort  of  Confessions  you  would  like, 
the  real  serious  business,  no  nonsense  and  no  trimmings. 
As  I  was  leaving  the  village  church,  a  big  soldier  stopped 
me  to  know,  like  our  Gardiner  Street  friend,  '  if  the  Fathers 
would  be  sittin'  any  more  that  night/  He  was  soon  polished 
off,  poor  chap,  and  then  insisted  on  escorting  me  home. 
He  was  one  of  my  old  boys,  and  having  had  a  couple  of 
glasses  of  beer — '  It  wouldn't  scratch  the  back  of  your  throat, 
Father,  that  French  stuff ' — was  in  the  mood  to  be  com 
plimentary.  '  We  miss  you  sorely,  Father,  in  the  battalion/ 
he  said,  '  we  do  be  always  talking  about  you/  Then  in  a 
tone  of  great  confidence  :  '  Look,  Father,  there  isn't  a  man 
who  wouldn't  give  the  whole  of  the  world,  if  he  had  it,  for 
your  little  toe  !  That's  the  truth.'  The  poor  fellow  meant 
well,  but  '  the  stuff  that  would  not  scratch  his  throat ' 
certainly  helped  his  imagination  and.  eloquence.  I  reached 
the  Convent  a  bit  tired,  intending  to  have  a  rest  before 
Mass,  but  found  a  string  of  the  boys  awaiting  my  arrival, 
determined  that  they  at  least  would  not  be  left  out  in  the 
cold.  I  was  kept  hard  at  it  hearing  Confessions  till  the  stroke 
of  twelve  and  seldom  had  a  more  fruitful  or  consoling  couple 
of  hours'  work,  the  love  of  the  little  Babe  of  Bethlehem 
softening  hearts  which '  all  the  terrors  of  war  had  failed 
to  touch." 

The  Mass  itself  was  a  great  success  and  brought  consolation 
and  spiritual  peace  to  many  a  war- weary  exile.  This  is 
what  Fr.  Doyle  says  : 

"  I  sang  the  Mass,  the  girls'  choir  doing  the  needful.  One 
of  the  Tommies,  from  Dolphin's  Barn,  sang  the  Adeste 
beautifully  with  just  a  touch  of  the  sweet  Dublin  accent 


270  FATHER   WILLIAM   DOYLE,   SJ. 

to  remind  us  of  '  home,  sweet  home,'  the  whole  congregation 
joining  in  the  chorus.  It  was  a  curious  contrast :  the  chapel 
packed  with  men  and  officers,  almost  strangely  quiet  and 
reverent  (the  nuns  were  particularly  struck  by  this),  praying 
.and  singing  most  devoutly,  while  the  big  tears  ran  down 
many  a  rough  cheek  :  outside  the  cannon  boomed  and  the 
machine-guns  spat  out  a  hail  of  lead  :  peace  and  good  will — 
hatred  and  bloodshed  ! 

"  It  was  a  Mid.night  Mass  none  of  us  will  ever  forget.  A 
good  500  men  came  to  Holy  Communion,  so  that  I  was 
more  than  rewarded  for  my  work." 

On  Christmas  Day  itself  all  was  quiet  up  at  the  front  line. 
The  Germans  hung  white  flags  all  along  their  barbed  wire 
and  did  not  fire  a  shot  all  day,  neither  did  the  English.  For 
at  least  one  day  homage  was  paid  to  the  Prince  of  Peace. 
Slaughter  began  next  day  with  renewed  energy.  Two  little 
incidents  which  Fr.  Doyle  chronicles  as  having  occurred  on 
26th  December  may  be  here  given  in  his  own  words. 

"  On  St.  Stephen's  Day  the  men  were  engaged  in  a  football 
match,  when  the  Germans  saw  them,  sent  over  a  lovely 
shot  at  long  range,  which  carried  away  the  goal  post — the 
umpire  gave  a  '  foul ' — and  bursting  in  the  middle  of  the 
men,  killed  three  and  wounded  seven.  The  wounded  were 
bandaged  up  and  hurried  off  to  hospital,  the  dead  carried 
away  for  burial ;  and  then  the  ball  was  kicked  off  once  more, 
and  the  game  went  on  as  if  nothing  had  happened.  The 
Germans  must  have  admired  the  cool  pluck  of  the  players, 
for  they  did  not  fire  any  more.  This  is  just  one  little  incident 
of  the  war,  showing  how  little  is  thought  of  human  life  out 
here  ;  it  sounds  callous  but  there  is  no  room  for  sentiment 
in  warfare,  and  I  suppose  it  is  better  so  " 

The  other  incident  is  of  more  personal  interest. 

"  I  was  riding  on  my  bicycle  past  a  waggon  when  the 
machine  slipped,  throwing  me  between  the  front  and  back 
wheels  of  the  limber.  Fortunately  the  horses  were  going 
very  slowly  and  I  was  able,  how  I  cannot  tell,  to  roll  out 
before  the  wheel  went  over  my  legs.  I  have  no  luck,  you 
see,  else  I  should  be  home  now  with  a  couple  of  broken  legs, 
not  to  speak  of  a  crushed  head.  The  only  commiseration 
I  received  was  the  remark  of  some  passing  officers  that  '  the 
Christmas  champagne  must  have  been  very  strong/  ' 


CHRISTMAS  AT  THE   FRONT  271 

From  a  few  more  of  his  letters  despatched  at  this  time 
we  can  fill  in  some  details  and  conditions  of  his  life  during 
the    first    two    months    of    1917.      The    cold    was    intense. 
Fr.  Doyle's  references  thereto  are  suggestive  and  eloquent  : 
"  Jan.  27th.     Cold  ! 

Jan.  28th.     Colder  !  ! 

Jan.  29th.     More  colder  !  !  ! 

Jan.  soth.     !!!!!!" 

Once  he  apologises  for  not  writing  by  saying  that  he  could 
not  hold  a  pencil  in  his  fingers.  "  Before  I  have  finished 
dressing  in  the  mornings,  not  a  very  long  process/'  he  says, 
"  the  water  in  which  I  had  washed  is  frozen  again.1  One 
has  to  be  very  careful,  too,  of  one's  feet,  keeping  them  well 
rubbed  with  whale  oil,  otherwise  you  would  soon  find  yourself 
unable  to  walk,  with  half  a  dozen  frozen  toes.  A  dug-out 
is  not  the  warmest  of  spots  just  at  present ;  but  even  if 
I  felt  inclined  to  growl,  I  should  be  ashamed  to  do  so,  seeing 
what  the  poor  men  are  suffering  in  the  trenches."  One 
would  fancy  that  living  mostly  in  an  open  hole  in  the  side 
of  a  ditch  while  the  thermometer  registered  several  degrees 
below  zero,  would  cool  even  a  saint's  ardour  for  suffering. 
But  here  is  the  inexorable  entry  in  his  diary  (ist  Feb.)  : 
"  Constant  urging  of  Jesus  to  do  '  hard  things  '  for  Him, 
things  which  cost.  I  shrink  from  sacrifice,  but  I  know  well 
He  wants  it  and  I  can  never  be  happy  or  at  peace  otherwise. 
I  find  I  am  falling  off  in  the  100,000  aspirations.  Have 
bound  myself  for  a  week  by  vow  to  make  the  full  number." 

Before  starting  a  spell  in  the  trenches  Fr.  Doyle  used  to 
endeavour  to  get  as  many  men  as  possible  to  Confession 
on  the  previous  evening  and  then  to  Mass  and  Holy  Com 
munion  in  the  morning.  As  one  battalion  was  some  miles 
from  the  other,  this  meant  an  early  start  and  ride  or  walk, 
through  rain,  slush  and  snow  or,  later,  over  hard-frozen 
ground  "  I  have  celebrated  Mass  in  some  strange  places 
and  under  extraordinary  conditions,"  he  writes  from  the 

I. — As  a  matter  of  fact  the  temperature  was  for  over  a  fortnight  many  degrees 
below  zero.  During  this  time  it  took  five  or  six  hours  of  hard  labour  to  dig  a  grave. 
"I  think  the  limit  was  reached,''  writes  Fr.  Doyle,  "when  the  wine  froze  in  the 
chalice  at  Mass,  and  a  lamp  had  to  be  procured  to  melt  it  before  going  on  with 
the  Consecration.  I  am  thinking  it  will  take  fifty  lamps  to  thaw  out  the  poor 
chaplain  ! " 


272  FATHER   WILLIAM   DOYLE,   SJ. 

trenches  on  28th  December,  "  but  somehow  I  was  more  than 
usually  impressed  this  morning  The  men  had  gathered  in 
what  was  once  a  small  convent.  For  with  all  their  faults, 
their  devil-may-care  recklessness,  they  love  the  Mass  and 
regret  when  they  cannot  come.  It  was  a  poor  miserable 
place,  cold  and  wet,  the  only  light  being  two  small  candles. 
Yet  they  knelt  there  and  prayed  as  only  our  own  Irish  poor 
can  pray,  with  a  fervour  and  faith  which  would  touch  the 
heart  of  any  unbeliever.  They  are  as  shy  as  children,  and 
men  of  few  words  ;  but  I  know  they  are  grateful  when  one 
tries  to  be  kind  to  them  and  warmly  appreciate  all  that 
is  done  for  their  soul's  interest."  While  in  the  trenches 
Fr.  Doyle  was  not  allowed  to  have  Mass  for  his  men,  owing 
to  the  danger  of  having  many  gathered  together  near  the 
firing  line.  So  each  morning  he  went  back  to  where  the 
reserve  company  was  stationed,  about  twenty  minutes' 
walk  ;  which  gave  those  who  were  free  a  chance  of  coming 
often  to  Holy  Communion.  On  February  2nd,  however,  he 
was  able  to  offer  the  Holy  Sacrifice  in  the  trenches,  his  chapel 
being  a  dug-out  capable  of  holding  ten  or  a  dozen  "  But 
as  my  congregation  numbered  forty-six,"  he  says,  "  the 
vacant  space  was  small.  How  they  all  managed  to  squeeze 
in  I  cannot  say.  There  was  no  question  of  kneeling  down  ; 
the  men  simply  stood  silently  and  reverently  round  the  little 
improvised  altar  of  ammunition  boxes,  '  glad,'  as  one  of  them 
quaintly  expressed  it,  '  to  have  a  say  in  it.'  Surely  our 
Lord  must  have  been  glad  also,  for  every  one  of  the  forty-six 
received  Holy  Communion,  and  went  back  to  his  post  happy 
at  heart  and  strengthened  to  face  the  hardships  of  these 
days  and  nights  of  cold."  What  a  difference  the  Real 
Presence  made  in  the  ministrations  and  influence  of  a 
Catholic  chaplain  ! 

These  Irish  lads  had  a  simple  strong  faith  and  reverence 
for  the  priest.  That  same  afternoon  (2nd  Feb.)  as  Fr.  Doyle 
was  coming  back  from  his  round  of  the  front  line  trench, 
he  found  it  necessary  to  get  under  cover  as  shelling  began. 
So  he  crawled  into  a  hole  in  which  six  men  were  already 
crouching.  No  one  could  have  been  more  welcome.  "  Come 
in,  Father,"  cried  one,  "  we're  safe  now,  anyhow."  On 
another  similar  occasion  the  remark  was  made,  "  Isn't  the 


CHRISTMAS   AT   THE   FRONT  273 

priest  of  God  with  us,  what  more  do  you  want  ?  "  The 
poor  fellows  fancied  that  Fr.  Doyle  was  invulnerable  ;  no 
wonder  when  they  saw  him  sauntering  cooly  around  amid 
shells  and  splinters.  He  was  always  near  to  cheer  them  up 
when  depressed  and  nervous  and  to  minister  to  them  when 
wounded.  If  a  raid  was  to  be  made  into  the  enemy  trenches, 
he  was  sure  to  come  round  the  line  in  the  early  hours  of  the 
morning  to  relieve  the  men's  tense  strain  by  a  cheery  word 
and  to  give  each  man  Absolution  before  '  going  over  the 
top/  Often  he  had  but  one  hour's  sleep.  Often  too  as 
he  was  fast  asleep,  tucked  up  in  his  blankets,  dreaming 
pleasantly  of  something  '  hot  ' — the  favourite  dream  on 
these  cold  nights — would  come  the  call,  say,  "  Two  men 
badly  wounded  in  the  firing  line,  Sir."  In  a  few  seconds 
he  had  pulled  on  his  big  boots  and  jumped  into  his  water 
proof  and  was  darting  down  the  trench,  floundering  along 
the  dark  ditch  with  an  occasional  star  shell  to  intensify  the 
gloom,  perhaps  being  misdirected  along  these  tortuous 
passages,  more  than  once  having  to  run  the  gauntlet  of  a 
machine  gun.  And  all  the  while  there  was  before  the 
chaplain's  mind  the  picture  of  "  the  wounded  soldier,  with 
his  torn  and  bleeding  body,  lying  out  there  in  this  awful 
biting  cold,  praying  for  the  help  that  seems  so  slow  in 
coming."  Here  is  a  description  of  one  such  '  sick-call '  in 
the  early  hours  of  I3th  January,  1917. 

"  I  found  the  dying  lad — he  was  not  much  more — so  tightly 
jammed  into  a  corner  of  the  trench  that  it  was  almost 
impossible  to  get  him  out.  Both  legs  were  smashed,  one 
in  two  or  three  places,  so  his  chances  of  life  were  small,  and 
there  were  other  injuries  as  well.  What  a  harrowing  picture 
that  scene  would  have  made.  A  splendid  young  soldier, 
married  only  a  month  they  told  me,  lying  there  pale  and 
motionless  in  the  mud  and  water,  with  the  life  crushed  out 
of  him  by  a  cruel  shell.  The  stretcher  bearers  hard  at  work 
binding  up,  as  well  as  they  may,  his  broken  limbs  ;  round 
about  a  group  of  silent  Tommies  looking  on  and  wondering 
when  will  their  turn  come.  Peace  for  a  moment  seems  to 
have  taken  possession  of  the  battle  field,  not  a  sound  save 
the  deep  boom  of  some  far-off  gun  and  the  stifled  moans 
of  the  dying  boy,  while  as  if  anxious  to  hide  the  scene,  nature 
drops  her  soft  mantle  of  snow  on  the  living  and  dead  alike. 


274  FATHER  WILLIAM   DOYLE,   S.J. 

"  Then,  while  every  head  is  bared,  come  the  solemn  words 
of  absolution,  '  Ego  te  absolve,  I  absolve  thee  from  thy  sins. 
Depart  Christian  soul,  and  may  the  Lord  Jesus  Christ  receive 
thee  with  a  smiling  and  benign  countenance.  Amen.'  Oh  ! 
surely  the  gentle  Saviour  did  receive  with  open  arms  the 
brave  lad,  who  had  laid  down  his  life  for  Him,  and  as  I  turned 
away  I  felt  happy  in  the  thought  that  his  soul  was  already 
safe  in  that  land  where  '  God  will  wipe  away  all  sorrow  from 
our  eyes,  for  weeping  and  mourning  shall  be  no  more.'  ' 

This  was  the  message  which  the  Catholic  priest  brought 
with  him  into  this  arena  of  brutal  strife  and  cruel  bloodshed, 
the  vision  of  a  world  of  peace.  "  God  shall  wipe  away  all 
tears  from  their  eyes  ;  and  death  shall  be  no  more,  nor 
mourning  nor  crying  nor  sorrow  shall  be  any  more,  for  the 
former  things  are  passed  away.  And  He  that  sat  on  the 
throne  said,  Behold  I  make  all  things  new."  (Apoc.  21.  4.) 
A  new  heaven  and  a  new  earth,  let  us  hope,  after  the  slaughter 
of  so  many  guiltless  and  brave  men  and  the  agony  of  countless 
widows  and  orphans.  "  The  cry  of  them  hath  entered  into 
the  ears  of  the  Lord  of  sabaoth."  (Jas  5.  4.) 


EASTER  IN   THE   PAS    DE   CALAIS  275 

CHAPTER   X. 
MILITARY    CHAPLAIN 


(i.)   EASTER  IN  THE  PAS  DE  CALAIS. 

FR.  Doyle  was  only  a  week  back  in  the  trenches 
after  his  short  trip  home,  when  the  48th  Brigade 
received  welcome  orders  to  move  to  the  rear  for  a 
rest.  The  rest,  however,  seems  to  have  consisted  chiefly 
of  extra  drill,  apparently  in  preparation  for  the  coming 
offensive.  "  We  left  Belgium,"  he  writes,  "  on  the  Saturday 
before  Palm  Sunday  (i.e.  3ist  March) — a  glorious  morning, 
dry  under  foot,  with  brilliant  sunshine.  The  Brigade  of 
four  regiments  made  a  gallant  show,  each  headed  by  its 
band  of  pipers,  and  followed  by  the  transport,  etc.  We 
were  the  first  to  move  off,  and  so  came  in  for  an  extra  share 
of  greetings  from  the  villagers  who  turned  out  to  see  us 
pass,  as  fine  a  lot  of  sturdy  lads  as  you  could  wish  to  gaze 
on,  not  to  mention  the  gallant  chaplain. 

"  Our  march  for  the  first  day  was  not  a  very  long  one, 
something  aoout  20  miles,  but  as  every  pace  took  us  further 
and  further  from  the  trenches,  the  march  was  a  labour  of 
love.  At  mid-day  a  halt  was  called  for  dinner,  which  had 
been  cooking  slowly  in  the  travelling  kitchens  which  accom 
panied  us,  and  in  a  few  minutes  every  man  was  sitting  by 
the  road-side  negotiating  a  big  supply  of  hot  meat  and 
potatoes  with  a  substantial  chunk  of  bread.  We,  poor 
officers,  were  left  to  hunt  for  ourselves,  a  hunt  which  did 
not  promise  well  at  first,  as  the  people  in  the  estaminefs 
were  anything  but  friendly  and  said  they  had  nothing  to 
give  us  to  eat.  The  reason,  I  discovered  later,  was  that 
some  British  officers  had  gone  away  without  paying  their 
bill,  a  not  uncommon  thing  I  am  sorry  to  say  Eventually, 
with  the  help  of  a  little  palaver  and  my  bad  French,  our 
party  secured  some  excellent  bread  and  butter,  coffee,  and 
a  basket  of  fresh  eggs  On  again  after  an  hour's  rest. 


276  FATHER  WILLIAM   DOYLE,   S.J. 

"  Marching  with  a  heavy  rifle  and  full  kit  is  no  joke,  hence 
our  pace  is  slow.  I  often  wonder  how  the  poor  men  stick 
it,  and  stick  it  they  do,  most  of  them  at  least,  till  I  have 
seen  them  drop  senseless  by  the  road  from  sheer  exhaustion. 
As  a  rule  they  are  left  there  to  follow  the  column  as  best 
they  can,  for  if  they  knew  that  falling  out  meant  a  lift,  not 
many  of  the  regiment  would  reach  their  destination  on 
foot.  To  make  matters  worse  we  had  to  tramp  along  over 
the  rough  paved  roads,  which  must  be  an  invention  of  the 
Old  Boy  to  torture  people.  At  first  the  road  feels  like  this 

mmmmm  then  after  ten  miles  AAAAAAA  till  at  last  you 
are  positive  that  they  have  paved  the  way  with  spikes  instead 
of  stones,  something  in  this  fashion  AAAAAAAAA  •  My 
poor  feet  ! 

"At  last  the  town  we  were  bound  for  came  in  sight,  and 
hopes  of  a  good  rest  were  high,  when  word  came  along  that 
we  were  not  to  stay  in  that  haven  of  peace  and  plenty  but 
trudge  on  another  three  miles.  The  camel  is  supposed  to 
be  a  patient  animal,  but  Tommy  can  give  him  points  anj^ 
day.  Our  lodging  was  a  mutilated  country  farmhouse, 
dirty  and  uncomfortable,  the  less  said  about  it  the  better, 
but  everyone  was  too  tired  to  care  much  even  though  we 
officers,  snoring  on  the  floor,  felt  inclined  to  envy  the  sardines 
in  their  comfortable  box. 

"  It  was  impossible  to  have  Mass  for  the  men  in  the 
morning,  even  though  it  was  Palm  Sunday,  as  there  was 
much  work  to  be  done  and  we  had  to  be  off  early  I  got 
away  to  the  little  village  and  offered  up  the  Holy  Sacrifice 
for  them,  emptied  a  coffee  pot,  and  fell  into  my  place  as  the 
regiment  marched  off.  That  was  a  hard  day  We  were  all 
stiff  and  sore  for  want  of  previous  exercise,  and  in  addition 
were  well  scourged  by  sleet,  and  rain,  and  snow,  though  at 
times  the  sun  did  its  best  to  brighten  things  up  a  bit.  Our 
luck  turned  when  we  reached  our  night's  halting  place,  a 
good-sized  town  with  comfortable  billets.  A  big  party  of 
my  men  were  quartered  in  the  public  ball-room,  which 
contained  an  automatic  organ.  The  last  I  saw  of  them 
was  a  score  of  '  couples  '  waltzing  round  quite  gaily,  without 
a  sign  of  having  the  best  part  of  a  forty  mile  march  to 
their  credit. 


EASTER   IN   THE   PAS   DE   CALAIS  277 

"  Monday  saw  us  early  afoot.  Nothing  of  great  interest, 
except  that  the  country  was  becoming  more  hilly,  and 
prettier,  the  stones  harder,  our  feet  and  shoulders  sorer, 
quite  a  longing  for  the  repose  of  the  trenches  was 
springing  up  in  many  a  heart.  That  evening  ended  our 
tramp,  and  here  we  have  been  ever  since,  and  are  to  remain 
for  some  time  longer,  much  to  our  joy.  Probably  we  shall 
return  to  the  same  place  we  came  from,  but  no  one  really 
knows  our  future  movements." 

"  Here  "  was  a  little  village  in  the  Pas  de  Calais  called 
Nordausques,  on  the  right  (east)  of  the  main  Saint-Omer- 
Calais  road,  about  sixteen  kilometres  from  each  of  these 
places.  During  this  fortnight  away  from  the  sound  of  the 
guns,  Fr.  Doyle  had  a  very  busy  time.  So  indeed  had  the 
men.  '  The  morning,"  he  says,  "  is  given  up  to  various 
exercises,  one  of  which  is  the  storming  of  a  dummy  German 
trench  to  the  accompaniment  of  fearful,  blood-curdling  yells, 
enough  to  terrify  the  bravest  enemy.  The  afternoon  is  spent 
at  football  and  athletic  sports,  so  that  the  men  are  having 
a  good,  if  a  strenuous,  time.  So  is  the  poor  Padre.  My  two 
regiments  are  quartered  in  two  villages  some  miles  apart. 
The  four  companies  of  each  regiment  in  different  hamlets, 
and  to  make  things  more  inconvenient  still,  the  two  platoons 
of  each  company,  thirty-two  in  all,  are  distributed  in  as 
many  farmhouses.  You  can  imagine  I  have  no  easy  task 
to  get  round  to  see  all  my  men,  which  I  am  anxious  to  do, 
so  as  to  make  sure  that  every  man,  if  possible,  gets  to  his 
Easter  Duty.  I  have  Mass  every  morning  for  them  with 
many  Communions  daily,  seventy  to-day  in  one  church ; 
and  then  in  the  evening,  having  finished  Devotions  in  one 
village  and  heard  the  men's  Confessions,  I  ride  over  to  the 
other  for  Rosary  and  Benediction,  with  more  Confessions. 
In  addition  to  this,  there  are  many  stray  units  scattered 
about  in  various  places,  machine-gunners,  trench  mortar 
battery  men,  etc.,  who,  with  the  instruction  of  converts, 
prevent  me  from  feeling  time  hanging  on  my  hands  " 

This  brief  sojourn  in  the  Pas  de  Calais  enabled  Fr.  Doyle  to 
celebrate  Holy  Week  and  Easter  fittingly  and  thus  to  bring 
into  these  poor  fellows'  rest-interval  emotions  higher  than 
those  involved  in  rehearsals  for  future  bloodshed.  "  On  Spy 


278  FATHER  WILLIAM   DOYLE,   SJ. 

Wednesday  evening,"  he  recounts,  "  after  Benediction,  I 
told  the  men  I  wanted  nine  volunteers  to  watch  an  hour 
during  the  following  night  before  the  Altar  of  Repose.  I  had 
barely  finished  speaking  when  the  whole  church  made  a 
rush  up  to  the  altar  rails,  and  were  keenly  disappointed 
when  I  told  them  I  could  only  take  the  first  nine,  though 
I  could  have  had  thirty  an  hour  if  I  wanted  them.  I  was 
touched  by  the  poor  fellows'  generosity,  for  they  had  just 
finished  a  long,  hard  day's  work  with  more  before  them. 
I  got  the  nine  men  to  bring  their  blankets  into  the  little 
sacristy,  and  while  one  watched,  the  others  slept.  Surely 
our  Lord  must  have  been  pleased  with  His  Guard  of  Honour, 
and  will  bless  them  as  only  He  can." 

"  Easter  Sunday,"  he  continues,  "  was  quite  a  red  letter 
day  in  the  annals  of  the  town.  The  regiment  turned  out 
in  full  strength,  headed  by  the  pipers,  and  crowded  the 
sanctuary,  every  inch  of  the  church,  and  out  beyond.  I  had 
eight  stalwart  sergeants  standing  guard  with  fixed  bayonets 
round  the  altar.  At  the  Consecration  and  also  at  the  Com 
munion  of  the  Mass  the  buglers  sounded  the  Royal  Salute 
which  is  only  given  to  Monarchs.  The  guard  at  the  word 
of  command  presented  arms,  and  in  our  poor  humble  way 
we  tried  to  do  honour  to  the  Almighty  King  of  Kings  on  the 
day  of  His  glorious  triumph.  I  must  not  forget  to  add 
that  the  lassies  and  maidens  did  us  the  honour  of  coming 
to  sing  during  Mass,  casting  many  an  envious  glance  (so 
rumour  says)  down  on  the  handsome  Irish  lads  praying  so 
devoutly  below." 

No  wonder  that  Fr.  Doyle  wrote  a  little  later  :  '  The 
faith  and  fervour  of  our  Irish  lads  have  made  a  great 
impression  everywhere.  I  was  once  quite  delighted  to  hear 
the  cure*  rubbing  it  into  his  congregation,  drawing  a  contrast 
between  them  and  the  Irish  soldiers  much  to  the  disadvantage 
of  the  former."  On  Easter  Sunday  the  good  cure  received 
a  very  tangible  proof  of  Irish  faith,  for  his  collection  bag 
contained  a  very  unprecedented  number  of  silver  coins  and 
five  franc  notes.  When  referring  to  his  host  in  Nordausques, 
Fr.  Doyle  was  led  to  make  some  general  observations  which 
may  be  worth  recording  : 

'  The  village  was  blest  by  the  presence  of  a  holy,  zealous 


EASTER   IN  THE   PAS    DE    CALAIS  279 

cure,  who  seemed  more  anxious  even  than  I,  that  the  men 
should  profit  spiritually  by  their  stay  in  his  parish,  and  not 
only  gave  me  every  facility  for  my  work,  but  himself  helped 
as  far  as  he  could.  I  am  convinced  the  French  clergy  will 
benefit  very  much  by  this  war.  All  over  the  country,  as 
you  know,  there  are  a  multitude  of  tiny  parishes,  numbering 
often  less  than  200  souls  including  children.  Even  if  all 
therein  were  practical  Catholics,  that  would  never  give  work 
for  a  priest  with  two  wooden  legs,  the  result  being  that  a 
man  with  little  to  do  often  does  less  than  he  has  to  do,  for 
abundance  of  work  creates  a  spirit  of  zeal.  Now  that  the 
ranks  of  the  clergy  have  been  sorely  decimated,  some  three 
thousand  French  priests  have  been  killed  already,  the  sur 
vivors  will  have  to  multiply  their  efforts,  and  take  charge 
of  perhaps  two  or  three  parishes,  much  to  their  own  personal 
advantage,  I  think." 

The  quiet  if  strenuous  interlude  amid  the  hills  and  pine- 
woods  of  the  Pas  de  Calais  came  to  an  end  all  too  soon.  Low 
Sunday  saw  the  men  once  more  on  their  trenchward  march, 
to  the  tune  of  cold  pelting  rain.  That  night  a  halt  was  made 
close  to  Saint-Omer,  which  gave  Fr.  Doyle  an  opportunity 
of  visiting  the  twelfth  century  Cathedral  and  the  old  Jesuit 
College  from  which  Stonyhurst  was  founded.  The  final 
stage  of  the  journey  was  very  trying,  the  men  "  had  to  face 
the  cobble  stones  at  six  in  the  morning  with  a  hurricane 
of  rain  and  sleet  which  slashed  like  a  whip."  and  arrived 
near  Locre  after  tramping  for  over  eight  hours  without 
a  morsel  of  food.  Once  more  life  in  and  out  of  the 
trenches  began. 


(2.)   MAY  DEVOTIONS. 

During  the  first  fortnight  of  May  the  whole  48th  Brigade — 
consisting  of  2nd,  8th,  and  gth  R.  Dublin  Fusiliers  and 
6~7th  R.  Irish  Rifles — was  out  of  the  trenches.  The  and 
and  8th  Dublins  were  in  Locre  and  the  gth  were  at  Clare 
Camp  less  than  two  miles  west  of  Locre ;  the  Rifles  were 
at  Kemmel,  three  miles  east  of  Locre.1  The  two  chaplains, 

i. — See  map  p.  223. 


a8o  FATHER   WILLIAM   DOYLE,   SJ. 

Fr.  Browne  and  Fr.  Doyle,  availed  themselves  of  this  interval 
to  organize  Month  of  May  devotions  for  the  men  Every 
evening  they  had  rosary,  hymns,  short  sermon,  and 
Benediction,  followed  by  more  hymns — the  '  boys  '  liked  to 
hear  their  own  voices.  "  One  result  of  the  devotions," 
writes  Fr.  Doyle,  "  has  been  the  conversion  of  the  only 
really  black  sheep  in  the  regiment,  a  man  very  many  years 
away  from  his  duty,  a  hard  morose  character,  upon  whom 
I  had  many  times  failed  to  make  any  impression.  I  saw 
it  was  useless  to  argue  with  him,  so  at  the  beginning  of  the 
month  I  handed  him  over  to  the  Blessed  Virgin  as  a  hopeless 
case  with  which  she  alone  could  deal.  Last  evening  I  met 
him  and  thought  I  would  try  once  more  to  make  him  see 
the  awful  danger  he  was  running  of  losing  his  soul.  It  was 
all  no  use,  the  devil  had  his  prey  too  tightly  held  to  shake 
him  off  like  that.  Then  a  thought  struck  me,  '  Look,'  I 
said,  '  this  is  the  month  of  May ;  you  surely  won't  refuse 
our  Blessed  Lady.'  The  poor  fellow  fell  on  his  knees,  and 
there  and  then  made  his  confession.  I  gave  him  Holy 
Communion  and  now  he  is  a  changed  man,  as  happy  as 
a  lark." 

In  Fr.  Doyle's  notebook  there  are  some  hastily  written 
outlines  of  talks  to  his  men.  Though  they  refer  to  an  earlier 
period  of  the  year — during  this  May  he  preached  chiefly 
on  the  Litany  of  our  Lady1 — these  rough  notes  will  give 
us  an  idea  of  his  practical  homely  style.  Hence  a  few 
extracts  will  be  given  here. 


"  TWO    SOLEMN   MOMENTS." 

"  The  end  of  that  life  which  God  gave  to  be  spent  in  His 
service. 

"  A  solemn  moment  when  we  lie  down  for  the  last  time 
and  look  back  upon  our  life  which  is  gone  for  ever — a 
precious  talent  entrusted  to  us,  not  to  misuse,  or  bury  in 
ground,  like  slothful  servant,  but  to  spend  to  good  use  till 
the  Master  comes. 

i. — "  I  remember  well,"  writes  Fr.  F.  Browne,  "  Fr.  Doyle's  wonderful  fervour 
and  eloquence  on  '  Virgin  most  faithful '  and  also  on  '  Help  of  Christians.'  " 


MAY   DEVOTIONS  281 

•'  What  is  true  of  end  of  life  equally  true  of  end  of  a  year. 
Another  milestone  of  our  journey  to  eternity.  Just  365 
days  of  a  life  already  so  short  passed  away.  All  of  us  have 
taken  a  big  stride  towards  the  hour  of  our  death,  and  let 
us  not  forget  it,  the  happiness  and  reward  of  Heaven. 

"  For  a  moment  let  us  pause  in  this  journey  of  life  and  look 
back.  What  strikes  us  ?  (i)  God's  goodness.  How  many 
began  last  year  well  and  strong,  full  of  plans,  now  dead. 
How  many  a  young  life  quenched  on  the  battle  field.  A 
million  a  week  died.  All  that  time  God's  Providence  has 
watched  over  us  and  protected  us  from  danger.  His  love 
surrounded  us. 

"  (2)  Our  opportunities.  Life  means  more  than  the  mere 
enjoyment  of  living,  the  time  of  sowing  the  seed  of  good 
works  whose  harvest  we  shall  reap  in  Heaven  ;  as  long  as 
we  live  we  can  merit.  Pile  up  treasures  in  Heaven  and 
increase  our  happiness  for  all  eternity.  Holy  Mass, 
Sacraments,  and  prayers,  every  act  we  do  for  God  means 
greater  joy  and  glory. 

"  (3)  Our  return.  Walk  back  the  road — our  angel  has  kept 
the  watch  of  every  act.  Tablets  to  mark  spots  where  our 
acts  were  done,  (a)  Piles  of  curses,  bad  language.  (6)  Rows 
of  empty  beer  bottles  with  all  the  sins  they  bring,  (c)  In 
a  word  little  good  but  much  evil. 

"  A  sad  picture,  but  we  must  not  lose  heart.  Last  mile 
of  march,  tighten  knapsack  on  back,  pull  ourselves  together 
and  step  out  more  hardy  for  the  last  mile.  For  many  the 
last  mile  of  life.  We  shall  make  it  worthy  of  Him  so  good 
to  us  : — more  prayers,  duty  better  done  ;  greater  watch 
fulness  over  our  tongues  and  our  evil  inclinations,  so  that 
we  may  exclaim  :  I  have  fought  a  good  fight,  done  my  duty 
to  my  country  and  my  God  : — a  crown  of  glory." 


"  CONFESSION." 

"A  serious  word  :  matter  of  life  and  death,  eternal  life, 
the  salvation  or  damnation  of  many  depend  upon  it.  Going 
to  the  Front  in  a  couple  of  weeks,  in  middle  of  shot  and  shell, 
in  danger  at  any  moment  of  instant  death  Are  you  ready 


282  FATHER   WILLIAM  DOYLE,   S.J. 

to  face  God  ?  None  of  us  are  afraid,  it  has  to  come  some 
time,  but,  '  know  ye  not  there  is  a  judgement  ?  '  '  O  Lord 
preserve  thou  my  soul.'  So  much  depends  on  it.  '  What 
shall  I  do  .  .  .to  judge.'  God  won't  be  very  angry 
about  our  sins  He  knows  our  weakness.  '  He  is  a  patient 
and  merciful  God  '  but  furious  that  we  should  appear  before 
His  holy  Face  covered  with  sin  and  every  abomination 
when  we  could  have  got  rid  of  all. 

"  The  Wedding  Garment.  You  know  where  you  can  find 
the  white  '  wedding  garment/  find  the  pond  of  the  Sacred 
Blood  where  to  wash  stains  away.  Don't  delay.  Hell  full 
of  men  who  said  '  later  on.'  God  help  the  man  who  when 
he  had  the  chance  did  not  make  his  peace  with  God. 

"I  am  pleading  for  your  immortal  souls;  it  matters  little 
in  the  end  whether  we  have  been  rich  or  poor,  lives  of 
hardship  or  pleasure,  but  to  save  one's  soul  or  lose  it 
matters  much. 

"  It  may  be  hard  for  some  to  square  up  accounts  (not  half 
so  hard  as  you  think)  but  a  million  times  harder  to  burn 
in  Hell,  cursing  your  folly. 

Confessions  4  to  6  in  C.  Hut." 

"THIRD    SUNDAY  AFTER    EPIPHANY." 

"  Saddened  and  disappointed  not  better  response  (Con 
fession).  Man  who  said  he  would  go  after  Boer  War.  All 
intend  to  go  ;  miserable.  '  Later  on.'  Hell  full  of  men 
who  said  '  later  on.'  Public  house. 

"  To-day's  Gospel  (5  Matthew  8. 1-13.) :  Leper,  awful  sight, 
image  of  sin.     '  Lord,   Thou  canst  make  me   clean.' 
show  yourself  to  the  priest.'     Christ  says  same  now.     He 
longing  to  forgive  the  past ;    to  wash  away  every  iniquity 
to  make  sins  red  as  scarlet,  whiter  than  snow.     For  the  sake 
of  your  immortal  souls.     Far  harder  to  hear  the  awful  wore 
'  Depart  ye  cursed,  I  know  ye  not.'  ' 

"FOURTH  SUNDAY  AFTER   EPIPHANY." 

'  Lord  save  us  we  perish  '  Gospel  (5.  Matthew  8.  23  27). 

Man's    life    a     warfare ;     not    for    country,     body,     but 

immortal  souls. 


MAY   DEVOTIONS  283 

"  Our  Lord  wishes  to  remind  us  of  this  incident  hinted 
in  gospel.  We  often  find  fierce  storms  springing  up  in  our 
souls.  We  call  them  temptation,  storms  of  anger — impurity, 
craving  for  drink,  stirred  up  by  the  devil  who  hopes  to  lead 
us  to  destruction.  We  need  not  fear  temptation. 

(1)  Not  sin  : — Christ's  temptation. 

(2)  A  good  sign — Blessed  Cure  d'Ars.     '  Became  pleasing 

to  God.'     '  Prepare  thy  soul  for  temptation/ 

(3)  Merit. 

"  Remedies,  (a)  Avoid  devil  (women).  (b)  Pray.  Christ 
knew  danger  of  disciples.  '  Came  a  great  calm/  the  reward 
of  victory  ;  remorse  after  sin  ;  each  victory  means  strength. 
'  Count  it  all  joy/  " 


(3.)  THE  PADRE  IN  THE  TRENCHES. 


Long  before  the  titles  of  our  Lady's  Litany  were  exhausted 
it  was  time  to  return  to  the  trenches.  At  the  conclusion 
of  such  a  respite  the  chaplain  used  to  give  General  Absolution. 
In  a  letter  written  to  his  father  about  this  time  Fr.  Doyle 
thus  describes  and  comments  on  the  touching  scene  : 

"  We  reap  a  good  harvest  with  confessions  every  day,  at 
any  time  the  men  care  to  come,  but  there  are  many  who 
for  one  reason  or  another  cannot  get  away,  hence  before 
going  into  the  trenches,  which  nearly  always  means  death 
for  some  poor  fellows,  we  give  them  a  General  Absolution. 
I  do  not  think  there  can  be  a  more  touching  or  soul  inspiring 
sight  than  to  see  a  whole  regiment  go  down  upon  their  knees, 
to  hear  that  wave  of  prayer  go  up  to  Heaven,  as  hundreds 
of  voices  repeat  the  Act  of  Contrition  in  unison,  '  My  God, 
I  am  heartily  sorry  that  I  have  ever  offended  You/  There 
is  an  earnestness  and  a  depth  of  feeling  in  their  voices,  which 
tells  of  real  sorrow,  even  if  one  did  not  see  the  tears  gather 
in  the  eyes  of  more  than  one  brave  man.  And  then  the 
deep,  reverent  silence  as  the  priest  raises  his  hand  over  the 


284  FATHER   WILLIAM   DOYLE,   S.J. 

bowed  heads  and  pronounces  the  words  of  forgiveness. 
Human  nature  is  ever  human  nature,  and  even  Irish  soldiers 
commit  sins  ;  you  can  picture  then  the  feelings  of  any  priest 
standing  before  that  kneeling  throng,  knowing  that  by  the 
power  of  God  his  words  have  washed  every  soul  pure  and 
white.  I  love  to  picture  the  foul  garment  of  sin  falling 
from  every  man  there  at  the  words  of  Absolution,  and  to 
watch  the  look  of  peace  and  happiness  on  the  men's  faces 
as  they  lift  their  rifles  and  fall  into  rank,  ready  for  anything, 
even  '  to  meet  the  divil  himself,'  as  my  friend  of  long  ago 
shouted  out  as  he  marched  by  me.  Don't  you  agree  with 
me  that  the  consolations  and  real  joys  of  my  life  far  outweigh 
the  hard  things  and  privations,  even  if  there  were  no  '  little 
nest-egg  '  being  laid  up  in  a  better  and  happier  world  ? 

It  is  when  we  read  such  an  extract  that  we  most  clearly 
realise  the  inner  motive-power  which  sustained  Fr.  Doyl 
amid  '  the  hard  things  and  privations/  far  more  irkson 
and  painful  to  him  than  to  one  mentally  less  idealistic 
physically  less  highly  strung  and  sensitive.  He  was  brave 
and  untiring,  not  because  he  found  life  congenial,  but  becaus 
he  found  it  so  hard.  His  interests  were  concentrated  01 
his  mission  to  be  '  another  Christ  '  ;  this  was  the  ideal  ii 
whose  consuming  fire  all  other  ideas  were  fused.  "  I  can 
say  with  all  truth,"  he  wrote,  "  I  have  never  spent  a  happier 
year.  For  though  I  have  occasionally  felt  as  if  the  limit 
of  endurance  were  reached,  I  have  never  lost  my  good  spirits, 
which  have  helped  me  over  many  a  rough  road  "  He  needed 
all  his  courage.  What  a  life  it  was  !  From  extremes  of 
heat  to  unimagined  depths  of  cold  ;  for  days  water  above, 
below,  everywhere,  and  then  from  this  aquatic  misery  to 
burning  sun  and  parching  thirst.  There  were  long  tramps 
by  day,  with  pack  and  equipment  growing  heavier  each 
hour,  till  one  became  a  mass  of  sweat  and  mud  ;  nights 
without  sleep,  burying  the  dead  or  stumbling  along  trenches 
to  minister  to  the  dying  ;  nights,  too,  made  hideous  by 
bursting  shells  or  the  still  more  terrible  warning  of 
approaching  poison-gas.  Our  thoughts  go  back  to  Paul  of 
Tarsus,  whose  life  was  spent  "  in  journeying  often,  in  perils 
of  waters,  in  perils  of  robbers,  ...  in  labour  and  pain- 
fulness,  in  much  watchings,  in  hunger  and  thirst,  in  fastings 


THE   PADRE   IN   THE   TRENCHES  285 

often,  in  cold  and  nakedness."  (//  Cor.  IT.  26. )l  Yet,  as 
Fr.  Doyle  pointed  out,  these  physical  sufferings  were  light 
in  comparison  with  that  constant  sense  of  insecurity  and 
suspense,  the  strain  of  being  never  really  oat  of  danger  for 
miles  behind  the  front,  the  oppressive  feeling  of  waiting 
for  the  stroke  of  an  uplifted  sword.  "  Pain  and  privation," 
he  writes,  "  are  only  momentary,  they  quickly  pass  and 
become  even  delightfully  sweet,  if  only  borne  in  the  spirit 
with  which  many  of  my  grand  boys  take  these  things : 
'  Shure,  Father,  it's  not  worth  talking  about  ;  after  all,  is 
it  not  well  to  have  some  little  thing  to  suffer  for  God  and 
His  Blessed  Mother  ?  '  But  the  craven  fear  which  at  times 
clutches  the  heart,  the  involuntary  shrinking  and  dread  of 
human  nature  at  danger  and  even  death,  are  things  which 
cannot  be  expressed  in  words.  An  officer,  who  had  gone 
through  a  good  deal  himself,  said  to  me  recently  :  '  I  never 
realized  before  what  our  Lord  must  have  suffered  in  the 
Garden  of  Gethsemane  when  He  began  to  fear  and  grow 
sorrowful.'  Yet  His  grace  is  always  there  to  help  one  when 
most  needed,  and  though  the  life  is  hard  and  trying  at  times, 
I  have  never  ceased  to  thank  Him  for  the  privilege  (I  can 
call  it  nothing  else)  of  sharing  in  this  glorious  work." 

In  a  letter  written  to  his  father  on  25th  July,  he  invites 
him  to  come  in  spirit  with  him  on  a  visit  to  the  trenches. 
He  is  thus  led  to  describe  a  typical  incident  of  his  '  glorious 
work,'  which  must  have  been  as  consoling  to  the  father  as 
it  was  to  the  son.  "  There  is  a  party  coming  towards  us 
down  the  trench,"  he  writes  ;  "  aud  as  they  have  the  right 
of  way,  we  must  squeeze  into  a  corner  to  let  them  pass. 

I. — Life  at  the  Front  was  after  all  not  so  different  from  that  of  the  foreign  mission 
which  had  been  Fr.  Doyle's  ambition.  "You  have  to  be  an  Indian,"  wrote  the 
martyr  John  de  Bre"beuf  in  1635.  "  Bend  your  shoulders  to  the  same  burdens  as  they 

bear Remember  that  Jesus  Christ  is  the  true  greatness  of  the  missionary. 

Him  alone  and  His  cross  are  you  to  seek,  in  running  after  these  people.      With  Him 

you  will  find  roses  on  thorns,  sweets  in  bitterness,  everything  in  nothingness 

You  will  sleep  on  a  skin,  and  many  a  night  you  will  never  close  an  eye  on  account  of 

the  vermin  that  swarm  over  you Blasphemy  and  obscenity  are  commonly 

on  their  lips.     You  are  often  without  Mass  ;    and  when  you  succeed  in  saying  it,  your 
cabin  is  full  of  smoke  or  snow.     The  Indians  never  leave  you  alone  and  are  continually 

yelling  and  shouting  at  the  top  of  their  voice The  food  will  be  insipid,  but 

the  gall  and  vinegar  of  our  Blessed  Saviour  will  make  it  like  honey  on  your  lips.  .  .  . 
You  have  only  the  necessaries  of  life,  and  that  makes  it  easy  to  be  united  with  God. 
....  You  are  obliged  to  pray,  for  you  are  facing  death  at  every  moment."- 
T.  J.  Campbell,  S.J.,  Pioneer  Priests  of  North  America  :  Among  the  ffurons,  1910, 
pp.  104-107. 


286  FATHER   WILLIAM   DOYLE,   SJ. 

A  poor  wounded  fellow  lies  on  a  stretcher  with  death  already 
stamped  on  his  face.  The  bearers  lay  their  burden  gently 
down — these  rough  men  have  the  tender  heart  of  a  woman 
for  the  wounded — reverently  uncover  their  heads  and  with 
draw  a  little  as  the  priest  kneels  behind  the  dying  man's 
head.  A  glance  at  the  identity-disc  on  his  wrist,  stamped 
with  his  name,  regiment,  and  religion,  shows  that  he  is  a 
Catholic — for  there  are  few  men,  no  matter  what  their  belief, 
who  do  not  carry  a  rosary  or  a  Catholic  medal  round  their 
necks.  I  wonder  what  the  non-Catholic  Padres  think  of 
this  fearful  increase  of  Idolatry  !  'Ah,  Father,  is  that 
you  ?  Thanks  be  to  God  for  His  goodness  in  sending  you ; 
my  heart  was  sore  to  die  without  the  priest.  Father — the 
voice  was  weak  and  came  in  gasps — Father,  oh,  I  am  glad 
now,  I  always  tried  to  live  a  good  life,  it  makes  death  so 
easy.'  The  Rites  of  the  Church  were  quickly  administered 
though  it  was  hard  to  find  a  sound  spot  on  that  poor  smashed 
face  for  the  Holy  Oils,  and  my  hands  were  covered  with  his 
blood.  The  moaning  stopped  ;  I  have  noticed  that  a  score 
of  times,  as  if  the  very  touch  of  the  anointing  brought  relief. 
I  pressed  the  crucifix  to  his  lips  as  he  murmured  after  me  : 
4  My  Jesus  mercy,'  and  then  as  I  gave  him  the  Last  Blessing 
his  head  fell  back,  and  the  loving  arms  of  Jesus  were  pressing 
to  His  Sacred  Heart  the  soul  of  another  of  His  friends,  who 
I  trust  will  not  forget,  amid  the  joys  of  Heaven,  him  who 
was  sent  across  his  path  to  help  him  in  his  last  moments. 

"It  is  little  things  like  this  which  help  one  over  the  hard 
days  and  sweeten  a  life  which  has  little  in  it  naturally 
attractive.  If  you  had  come  up  the  trench  with  me  twelve 
months  ago  on  the  morning  of  the  gas  attack  and  watched 
that  same  scene  repeated  hour  after  hour,  I  think  you  would 
have  thanked  God  for  the  big  share  you  have  in  the  salvation 
of  so  many  souls." 

We  are  able  to  narrate  one  or  two  incidents  of  '  this  glorious 
work  '  which  occurred  at  this  period.  '  The  enemy  for  once 
did  me  a  good  turn,"  he  writes  on  22nd  May.  "  I  had 
arranged  to  hear  the  men's  confessions  shortly  before  he 
opened  fire,  and  a  couple  of  well  directed  shells  helped  my 
work  immensely  by  putting  the  fear  of  God  into  the  hearts 
of  a  few  careless  boys  who  might  not  have  troubled  about 


THE   PADRE   IN   THE   TRENCHES  287 

coming  near  me  otherwise.  I  wonder  were  the  Sacraments 
ever  administered  under  stranger  circumstances  ?  Picture 
my  little  dug-out  (none  too  big  at  any  time)  packed  with 
men  who  had  dashed  in  for  shelter  from  the  splinters  and 
shrapnel  coming  down  like  hail.  In  one  corner  is  kneeling 
a  poor  fellow  recently  joined — who  has  not  '  knelt  to  the 
priest/  as  the  men  quaintly  say,  for  many  a  day — trying 
to  make  his  Confession.  I  make  short  work  of  that,  for  a 
shower  of  clay  and  stones  falling  at  the  door  is  a  gentle  hint 
that  the  '  crumps  '  are  getting  uncomfortably  near,  and  I 
want  to  give  him  Absolution  in  case  an  unwelcome  visitor 
should  walk  in.  Then,  while  the  ground  outside  rocks  and 
seems  to  split  with  the  crash  of  the  shells,  I  give  them  all 
Holy  Communion,  say  a  short  prayer,  and  perform  the 
wonderful  feat  of  packing  a  few  more  men  into  our  sardine 
tin  of  a  house.  . 

"As  soon  as  I  got  the  chance,  I  slipped  round  to  see  how 
many  casualties  there  were,  for  I  thought  not  a  mouse  could 
survive  the  bombardment.  Thank  God,  no  one  was  killed 
or  even  badly  hit,  and  the  firing  having  ceased,  we  could 
breathe  again.  I  was  walking  up  the  trench  from  the 
dressing  station  when  I  suddenly  heard  the  scream  of  another 
shell.  ...  It  was  then  I  realized  my  good  fortune. 
There  are  two  ways  to  my  dug-out,  and  naturally  I  choose 
the  shorter.  This  time,  without  any  special  reason,  I  went 
by  the  longer  way  ;  and  it  was  well  I  did.  for  the  shell  pitched 
in  the  other  trench,  and  probably  would  have  caught  me 
nicely  as  I  went  by.  But  instead  of  that  it  wreaked  its 
vengeance  on  my  unfortunate  orderly,  who  was  close  by 
in  his  dug-out,  sending  him  spinning  on  his  head  but  other 
wise  not  injuring  him  I  found  another  string  of  men 
awaiting  my  return  in  order  to  get  Confession  and  Holy 
Communion.  In  fact  I  had  quite  a  busy  evening,  thanks 
once  more  to  Fritz's  High  Explosive,  which  has  a  wonderful 
persuasive  effect  of  its  own.  I  am  wondering  how  many 
pounds  of  H.E.  I  shall  require  when  giving  my  next 
retreat  !  " 

In  his  letter  of  2Qth  May  he  records  an  exploit  of  his  in 
which,  he  thinks,  "  there  was  really  little  danger."  "A  few 
nights  ago,"  he  writes,  "  I  had  been  along  the  front  line  as 


288  FATHER   WILLIAM   DOYLE,   S.J 

usual  to  give  the  men  a  General  Absolution  which  they  are 
almost  as  anxious  to  receive  for  the  comfort  it  will  be  for 
their  friends  at  home,  should  they  fall,  as  for  themselves. 
I  was  coming  down  to  the  advanced  dressing  station,  when 
I  learned  that  a  small  party  had  '  gone  over  the  top  '  on 
our  right,  though  I  had  been  told  the  raid  was  only  from  the 
left.  When  I  got  to  the  spot  I  found  they  had  all  gone 
and  were  lying  well  out  in  No  Man's  Land.  It  was  a  case 
of  Mahomet  and  the  mountain  once  more.  The  poor 
'  mountain  '  could  not  come  back,  though  they  were  just 
longing  to,  but  the  prophet  could  go  out,  could  he  not  ? 
So  Mahomet  rolled  over  the  top  of  the  sandbags  into  a 
friendly  shell  hole,  and  started  to  crawl  on  his  hands  and 
knees  and  stomach  towards  the  German  trenches.  Mahomet, 
being  only  a  prophet,  was  allowed  to  use  bad  language,  of 
which  privilege  he  availed  himself,  so  report  goes,  to  the 
full,  for  the  ground  was  covered  with  bits  of  broken  barbed 
wire,  shell  splinters,  nettles,  etc.,  etc.,  and  the  poor  prophet 
on  his  penitential  pilgrimage  left  behind  him  much  honest 
sweat  and  not  a  few  drops  of  blood. 

"  That  was  a  strange  scene  !  A  group  of  men  lying  on 
their  faces,  waiting  for  certain  death  to  come  to  some  of 
them,  whispering  a  fervent  act  of  contrition,  and  God's 
priest,  feeling  mighty  uncomfortable  and  wishing  he  were 
safely  in  bed  a  thousand  miles  away,  raising  his  hand  in 
Absolution  over  the  prostrate  figures.  One  boy,  some  little 
distance  off,  thinking  the  Absolution  had  not  reached  him, 
knelt  bolt  upright,  and  made  an  act  of  contrition  you  could 
have  heard  in  Berlin,  nearly  giving  the  whole  show  away 
and  drawing  the  enemy's  fire. 

"  There  was  really  little  danger,  as  shell  holes  were 
plentiful,  but  not  a  little  consolation  when  I  buried  the  dead 
next  day  to  think  that  none  of  them  had  died  without 
Absolution.  I  was  more  afraid  getting  back  into  our  own 
trenches  ;  for  sentries,  seeing  a  man  coming  from  the 
direction  of  No  Man's  Land,  do  not  bother  much  about 
asking  questions  and  object  to  nocturnal  visitors." 

The  next  night  (24th  May)  another  raid  was  made  and 
Fr  Doyle  recounts  how  he  was  able  to  help  a  poor  prisoner. 
"  One  German  prisoner,  badly  wounded  in  the  leg,  was 


THE   PADRE   IN   THE   TRENCHES  289 

brought  in,"  he  writes.  "  He  knew  only  a  few  words  of 
English,  but  spoke  French  fluently.  I  try  to  do  all  I  can 
for  the  unfortunate  prisoners,  as  sometimes  not  much 
sympathy  is  shown  them,  and  they  have  evidently  been 
drilled  into  believing  that  we  promptly  roast  and  eat  them 
alive.  I  gave  him  a  drink,  made  him  as  comfortable  as 
possible,  and  then  seeing  a  rosary  in  his  pocket,  asked  him 
was  he  a  Catholic.  '  I  am  a  Catholic  priest,'  I  said,  '  and 
you  need  not  have  any  fear/  '  Ah,  monsieur/  he  replied, 
'  vous  etes  un  vrai  pretre  '  (you  are  a  true  priest).  He  gave 
me  his  home  address  in  Germany,  and  asked  me  to  write 
to  his  parents.  '  Poor  father  and  mother  will  be  uneasy,' 
he  said,  as  his  eyes  filled  with  tears.  '  O  mon  Dieu,  how 
I  am  suffering,  but  I  offer  it  all  up  to  You/  I  hope  to  get 
a  letter  through  by  means  of  the  Swiss  Red  Cross,  which 
will  be  a  comfort  to  his  anxious  parents,  who  seem  good 
pious  souls/'1 

What  a  consoling  little  picture  of  Christian  charity  rising 
above  human  strife  and  passion  !  What  an  insight  into  the 
noble  peace-mission  of  "  a  true  priest  "  ! 

One  other  quotation  will  give  a  further  little  illustration 
of  Fr.  Doyle's  ministry  while  his  men  were  in  reserve.  Early 
on  the  morning  of  Sunday,  3rd  June,  they  were  relieved, 
after  a  rather  strenuous  time  of  sixteen  days  in  the  front 
line,  more  than  usually  trying  for  want  of  sleep.  As  Mass 
for  the  men  was  not  till  mid-day,  Fr.  Doyle  had  "  planned 
a  glorious  soak  in  the  convent,  an  unblushing  gluttonous 
feast  of  blankets,  for  the  poor  old  tired  'oss."  But  through 
some  misunderstanding  his  orderly  did  not  turn  up  with 
his  horse,  so  he  had  to  trudge  back  with  his  heavy  pack. 
On  reaching  his  billet  at  2  a.m.,  he  found  the  door  of  his 
room  locked.  "  I  had  not  the  heart  to  wake  up  the  poor 
nuns,"  he  says  ;  "  and  after  all  when  one  is  fast  asleep,  is 
not  a  hard  plank  just  as  soft  as  a  feather  bed  ?  You  see 
I  am  becoming  a  bit  of  a  philosopher  !  "  '  The  next 
morning,"  he  continues,  "  I  had  Mass  in  a  field  close  to  the 
camp.  I  wish  you  could  have  seen  the  men  as  they  knelt 
in  a  hollow  square  round  the  improvised  altar,  brilliant 
sunshine  overhead,  and  the  soft  green  of  spring  about  them. 

I.  —See  other  instances  of  his  kindness  to  prisoners  on  pp.  246,  299. 
T 


290  FATHER  WILLIAM  DOYLE.   SJ. 

They  looked  so  happy,  poor  lads,  as  I  went  down  one  line 
and  up  the  other,  giving  them  the  Bread  of  the  Strong,  and 
I  could  not  help  thinking  of  another  scene  long  ago  when 
our  Lord  made  the  multitude  sit  down  on  the  grass,  and  fed 
them  miraculously  with  the  seven  loaves.  Before  I  got  to 
the  end  of  my  700  Communions  I  felt  wondrous  pity  for  the 
twelve  Apostles,  for  they  must  have  been  jolly  tired  also. 

"At  present  I  am  living  in  the  camp  which  is  further  back 
even  than  the  convent,  out  in  the  green  fields  of  the  country, 
most  peaceful  and  restful.  I  have  a  little  tent  to  myself, 
but  have  Rosary,  Mass,  Confessions,  etc.,  out  in  the  open. 
The  men  have  absolutely  no  human  respect,  and  kneel  in 
rows  waiting  for  their  turn  '  to  scrape,'1  as  if  they  were 
in  the  church  at  home,  paying  no  heed  to  the  endless  stream 
of  traffic.  I  am  sure  non-Catholics  must  wonder  what  on 
earth  we  are  at." 

While  solicitous  for  his  flock  when  under  his  charge,  he 
was  not  unmindful  of  them  when  dead.  The  following 
letter,  which  appeared  in  the  Irish  Catholic  »for  26th  May, 
1917,  was  written  by  Fr.  Doyle. 

"  Dear  Sir — One  is  often  struck,  on  glancing  over  the 
papers,  at  the  numerous  appeals  made  to  provide  '  comforts 
for  our  troops,'  but  no  one  ever  seems  to  think  that  the 
souls  of  those  who  have  fallen  in  battle  may  possibly  be 
in  need  of  much  greater  comfort  than  the  bodies  of  their 
comrades  who  survive 

"  With  all  the  spiritual  help  now  at  their  disposal,  even 
in  the  very  firing  line,  we  may  be  fairly  confident  that  few, 
if  any,  of  our  Catholic  men  are  unprepared  to  meet  Almighty 
God.  That  does  not  mean  they  are  fit  for  Heaven.  God's 
justice  must  be  fully  satisfied,  and  the  debt  of  forgiven  sin 
fully  atoned  for  in  Purgatory.  Hence  I  venture  to  appeal 
to  the  great  charity  of  your  readers  to  provide  '  comforts 
for  our  dead  soldiers  '  by  having  Masses  offered  for  their 
souls.  Remembrance  of  our  dead  and  gratitude  are  virtues 
dear  to  every  Irish  heart.  Our  brave  lads  have  suffered 
and  fought  and  died  for  us.  They  have  nobly  given  their 
lives  for  God  and  country.  It  is  now  our  turn  to  make 
some  slight  sacrifice,  so  that  they  may  soon  enter  into  the 
joy  of  eternal  rest. — Very  faithfully  yours,  NEMO." 

I. — "  Scraping  one's  kettle"  was  expressive  slang  for  cleaning  one's  soul  by  Confession. 


WYTSCHAETE   RIDGE  291 


(4.)  WYTSCHAETE  RiDGE.1 

"  To  save  you  unnecessary  anxiety,"  Fr.  Doyle  wrote  to 
his  father  on  nth  June,  "  I  told  you  in  my  last  note  (that 
of  5th  June  already  quoted)  that  we  were  again  on  the  march, 
which  was  quite  true,  but  the  march  was  not  backwards 
but  towards  the  enemy.  When  I  wrote  we  were  on  the 
eve  of  one  of  the  biggest  battles  of  the  war,  details  of  which 
you  will  have  read  in  the  morning  papers."  In  another 
confidential  letter  of  the  same  date  (5th  June),  however, 
he  was  more  communicative.  "  I  have  not  told  them  at 
home,"  he  wrote,  "  and  do  not  want  them  to  know  but 
we  have  had  a  terrible  time  for  the  last  three  weeks,  constant 
and  increasing  shelling,  with  many  wonderful  escapes.  We 
are  on  the  eve  of  a  tremendous  battle  and  the  danger  will 
be  very  great.  Sometimes  I  think  God  wishes  the  actual 
sacrifice  of  my  life — the  offering  of  it  was  made  long  ago. 
But  if  so,  that  almost  useless  life  will  be  given  most  joyfully. 
I  feel  wonderful  peace  and  confidence  in  leaving  myself 
absolutely  in  God's  Hands.  Only  I  know  it  would  not  be 
right,  I  would  like  never  to  take  shelter  from  bursting  shells ; 
and  up  to  a  few  days  ago,  till  ordered  by  the  Colonel,  I  never 
wore  a  steel  helmet.  I  want  to  give  myself  absolutely  to 
Him  to  do  with  me  just  as  He  pleases,  to  strike  or  kill  me, 
as  He  wishes,  trying  to  go  along  bravely  and  truthfully, 
looking  up  into  His  loving  Face,  for  surely  He  knows  best. 
On  the  other  hand  I  have  the  conviction,  growing  stronger 
every  day,  that  nothing  serious  will  befall  me  ;  a  wound 
would  be  joy,  '  to  shed  one's  blood  for  Jesus,'  when  I  would 
gladly  empty  my  veins  for  Him.  Otherwise  why  would  He 
impress  so  strongly  on  my  mind  that  this  '  novitiate  '  out 
here  is  only  the  preparation  for  my  real  life's  work  ?  Why 
does  He  put  so  many  schemes  and  plans  into  my  mind  ? 
Why  has  He  mapped  out  several  little  books,  one  of  which 
will  do  great  good,  I  believe,  because  every  word  will  be 
His  ?  Then  the  possibilities  of  the  Holy  Childhood  have 
gripped  me,  and  His  little  perishing  souls,  10,000  a  day, 

i. — See  map  on  p.  223. 


292  FATHER  WILLIAM   DOYLE,   SJ 

seem  ever  to  be  pleading  for  a  sight  of  Jesus  !  Yet  I  have 
laid  even  the  desire  to  do  these  things  at  His  Feet,  and  I 
strive  might  and  main  to  have  no  will  but  His,  for  this  pleases 
Him  most.  I  am  very  calm  and  trustful  in  face  of  the  awful 
storm  so  soon  to  burst.  But  could  it  be  otherwise,  when 
He  is  ever  with  me  and  when  I  know  that  should  I  fall,  it 
will  only  be  into  His  Arms  of  love  ?  " 

Fr.  Doyle  atoned  for  his  previous  reticence  by  sending 
his  father,  immediately  after  the  battle,  a  rather  long  account 
of  his  own  experiences  during  the  few  weeks  prior  to  the 
attack  of  yth  June,  as  well  as  during  the  actual  engagement. 

"  For  months  past  preparations  on  a  gigantic  scale  were 
being  made  for  the  coming  attack,  every  detail  of  which 
the  Germans  knew.  For  some  reason  or  other  they  left  us  in 
comparative  peace  for  a  long  time,  and  then  suddenly  started 
to  shell  us  day  and  night. 

"  We  had  just  gone  into  the  line  for  our  eight  days,  and 
a  lively  week  it  was.  How  we  escaped  uninjured  from  the 
rain  of  shells  which  fell  round  about  us,  I  do  not  know.  The 
men  had  practically  no  shelter,  as  their  dug-outs  would 
scarcely  keep  out  a  respectable  fat  bullet,  not  to  speak  of 
a  nine  or  twelve-inch  shell  (this  is  the  diameter  of  the  shell- 
base,  not  its  length),  and  used  to  run  to  me  for  protection 
like  so  many  big  children  with  a  confidence  I  was  far  from 
feeling,  that  the  '  priest  '  was  a  far  better  protection  than 
yards  of  re-inforced  concrete. 

"  I  have  come  back  to  my  little  home  more  than  once 
in  the  early  hours  of  the  morning  to  find  it  packed  with 
two-legged  smoking  '  sardines/  quite  happy  and  content  in 
spite  of  Fritz's  crumps,  to  be  greeted  with  the  remark  :  '  We 
were  just  saying,  Father,  that  this  is  a  lucky  dug-out,  and 
it  is  well  for  us  that  we  have  your  Reverence  with  us.'  God 
bless  them  for  their  simple  faith  and  trust  in  Him,  for  I  feel 
I 'owe  it  to  my  brave  boys  that  we  were  not  blown  sky-high 
twenty  times.  In  fact  the  '  Padre's  Dug-out  '  was  quite 
a  standing  joke  among  the  officers,  who  used  to  come  after 
a  strafe  to  see  how  much  of  it  was  left. 

"  Our  next  eight  days  in  support  were  even  worse,  as  the 
Germans  had  brought  up  more  guns,  and  used  them  freely. 
Our  Head-Quarters  was  a  good  sized  house,  which  had  never 


WYTSCHAETE   RIDGE  293 

been  touched  since  the  war  began,  being  well  screened  by 
a  wood  behind.  We  were  in  the  middle  of  dinner  the  first 
evening,  when  in  quick  succession  half  a  dozen  shells  burst 
close  around.  It  was  only  later  on  we  learned  the  reason 
of  this  unexpected  attack.  One  of  the  officers,  in  spite  of 
strict  orders  to  the  contrary,  had  gone  on  a  raid  with  a  map 
in  his  pocket  on  which  he  had  marked  various  positions, 
our  H.Q.  among  others.  He  was  captured,  and  '  the  fat 
was  in  the  fire.'  Owing  to  someone's  carelessness  no 
provision  had  been  made  for  protection  against  bombard 
ment,  and  we  had  to  stand  in  the  open  with  our  backs  against 
a  brick  wall,  watching  the  shells  pitching  right  and  left 
and  in  front,  wondering  when  would  our  turr^  come. 

'  Three  or  four  times  each  night  at  a  couple  of  hours' 
interval  the  torture  began  afresh,  just  as  one  was  dozing 
off  to  sleep,  sending  men  and  officers  flying  for  safety  to  the 
'  shady  side  '  of  the  house.  Shelling  in  the  open  or  in  a 
trench  is  not  so  pleasant,  but  this  was  horrible,  for  we  knew 
the  guns  were  searching  for  the  spot  so  obligingly  marked 
on  our  map.  One  morning  about  2  a.m.  I  had  gone  down 
the  road  to  look  after  some  men,  when  two  shells  smashed 
in  the  roof  of  the  house  I  had  left,  killing  five  of  our  staff, 
and  nearly  knocking  out  the  Colonel  and  two  other  officers. 
We  got  shelter  in  another  Mess  only  to  find  that  this  was  a 
marked  spot  too,  though  the  aim  was  not  so  accurate. 

"All  during  this  time  our  guns  were  keeping  up  the 
bombardment  of  the  Wytschaete  Village  and  Ridge,  which 
the  i6th  Irish  Division  were  to  storm.  I  think  I  am  accurate 
in  saying  that  not  for  ten  minutes  at  any  time  during  these 
sixteen  days  did  the  roar  of  our  guns  cease.  At  times  one 
or  two  batteries  would  keep  the  ball  rolling,  and  then  with 
a  majestic  crash  every  gun,  from  the  rasping  field  piece  up 
to  the  giant  fifteen-inch  howitzer,  would  answer  to  the  call 
of  battle,  till  not  only  the  walls  of  the  ruined  houses  shook 
and  swayed  but  the  very  ground  quivered.  You  may 
fancy  the  amount  of  rest  and  sleep  we  got  during  that  period, 
seeing  that  we  lived  in  front  of  the  cannon,  many  of  them 
only  a  few  yards  away,  while  the  Germans  with  clock-work 
regularity  pelted  us  with  shells  from  behind.  If  you  want 
to  know  what  a  real  headache  is  like,  or  to  experience  the 


294  FATHER  WILLIAM   DOYLE,   SJ. 

pleasure  of  every  nerve  in  your  body  jumping  about  like  so 
many  mad  cats,  take  the  shilling,  and  spend  a  week  or  two 
near  the  next  position  we  hope  to  capture. 

"All  things  come  to  an  end,  and  at  last  we  finished  our 
sixteen  days  Limbo  (Purgatory  is  not  near  enough  to  Hell  !) 
and  marched  back  to  the  rest  camp  with  tongues,  to  vary 
the  metaphor,  hanging  out  for  sleep.  That  night  a  villainous 
enemy  airman  dropped  bombs  close  to  our  tents,  and  the 
following  day  the  guns  shelled  us,  far  back  as  we  were.  We 
must  be  a  bad  lot,  for  '  there  is  no  rest  for  the  wicked/  they 
say.  For  once  my  heart  stood  still  with  fear,  not  so  much 
for  myself  as  for  the  poor  men.  There  we  were  on  the  side 
of  a  hill,  four  regiments  crowded  together,  our  only  protection 
the  canvas  walls  of  the  tents,  with  big  shells  creeping  nearer 
and  nearer 

"  Orders  had  been  given  to  scatter,  but  it  takes  time  to 
disperse  some  4,000  men,  and  one  well-aimed  shell  would 
play  havoc  in  such  a  crowd.  Forgive  me  for  mentioning 
this  little  incident.  I  want  to  do  so  in  gratitude  and  to 
bring  out  the  wonderful  love  and  tenderness  of  our  Divine 
Lord  for  His  own  Irish  soldiers,  not  to  claim  the  smallest 
credit  for  myself.  I  had  brought  the  Ciborium  to  my  tent 
after  Mass,  as  the  men  were  coming  to  Confession  and  Holy 
Communion  all  the  day.  Human  beings  could  not  help  us 
then,  but  He,  Who  stilled  the  tempest,  could  do  so  easily. 
There  was  only  time  for  one  earnest  '  Lord  save  my  poor 
boys,'  for  at  any  moment  the  camp  might  be  shambles 
full  of  dead  and  dying,  before  I  rushed  out  into  the  open. 
As  I  did  a  shell  landed  a  few  feet  behind  an  officer,  sending 
him  spinning,  but  he  jumped  up  unhurt.  A  moment  more 
down  came  a  second  right  into  the  middle  of  a  group  of  men, 
and,  miracle  of  miracles,  failed  to  explode.  A  third  burst 
so  close  to  another  party  I  was  sure  half  were  killed,  though 
I  must  confess  I  never  saw  dead  men  run  so  fast  before. 
And  so  it  went  on,  first  on  one  side,  then  on  another,  but 
at  the  end  of  the  half  hour's  bombardment  not  a  single  man 
of  the  four  regiments  had  been  hit,  even  slightly. 

'  The  chances  of  a  good  night's  rest  were  at  an  end,  for 
we  had  to  turn  out  to  sleep,  as  best  we  could,  under  the 
hedges  and  trees  of  the  surrounding  country.  It  was  a  big 


WYTSCHAETE   RIDGE  295 

loss  to  the  men,  as  once  the  attack  (which  was  due  in  three 
days)  began,  there  was  little  chance  of  closing  an  eye.  We 
priests  say  a  prayer  at  the  end  of  our  Office  asking  the  Lord 
to  grant  noctem  quietam  (a  peaceful  night).  I  never  fully 
appreciated  this  prayer  till  now,  and  have  said  it  more  than 
once  lately  with  heart-felt  earnestness. 

"  These  few  days  were  busy  ones  for  us,  Fr.  Browne  and 
myself.  The  men  knew  they  were  preparing  for  death,  and 
availed  themselves  fully  of  the  opportunities  we  were  able 
to  give  them.  Fortunately  the  weather  was  gloriously  fine, 
so  there  was  no  difficulty  about  Mass  in  the  open.  There 
was  a  general  cleaning  up  and  polishing  of  souls,  some  of 
them  not  too  shiny,  a  General  Communion  on  two  days 
for  all  the  men  and  officers,  with  the  usual  rosary  and  prayers 
each  evening,  consoling  for  us,  because  we  felt  the  men 
had  done  their  best,  and  the  future  might  be  safely  left  in 
the  hands  of  the  great  and  merciful  Judge. 

"  I  fancy  the  feelings  of  most  of  us  were  the  same  :  awe, 
not  a  little  fear,  and  a  big  longing  to  have  it  all  over.  We 
knew  the  seriousness  of  the  task  before  us,  for  Wytschaete 
Hill,  the  key  of  the  whole  position,  was  regarded  even  by  the 
General  Staff,  as  almost  impregnable,  and  the  German  boast 
was  that  it  would  never  be  taken.  Without  detracting  one 
bit  from  the  dash  and  bravery  of  our  Irish  lads,  which  won 
unstinted  praise  from  everyone — '  The  best  show  I  have  seen 
since  I  came  to  France/  said  Sir  D.  Haig — full  credit  must 
be  given  to  the  artillery  for  pounding  the  defences  to  dust, 
without  which  our  troops  would  still  be  on  this  side  of  the 
300  ft.  hill,  instead  of  a  couple  of  miles  on  the  other  side. 
Everyone  felt  the  losses  would  be  severe,  if  not  colossal, 
and,  as  we  sat  on  our  hill  and  gazed  down  into  the  valley 
beyond,  crammed  with  roaring  guns,  and  watched  the  shells 
bursting  in  hundreds,  knowing  the  moment  was  near  for 
us  to  march  down  into  that  hell  of  fire  and  smoke,  it  was 
small  wonder  if  many  a  stout  heart  quaked,  and  thoughts 
flew  to  the  dear  ones  at  home,  whom  one  hardly  hoped  to 
see  again. 

"  There  were  many  little  touching  incidents  during  these 
days  ;  one  especially  I  shall  not  easily  forget.  When  the 
men  had  left  the  field  after  the  evening  devotions,  I  noticed 


296  FATHER  WILLIAM  DOYLE,   S.J. 

a  group  of  three  young  boys,  brothers  I  think,  still  kneeling 
saying  another  rosary.  They  knew  it  was  probably  their 
last  meeting  on  earth  and  they  seemed  to  cling  to  one  another 
for  mutual  comfort  and  strength,  and  instinctively  turned 
to  the  Blessed  Mother  to  help  them  in  their  hour  of  need. 
There  they  knelt  as  if  they  were  alone  and  unobserved, 
their  hands  clasped  and  faces  turned  towards  heaven,  with 
such  a  look  of  beseeching  earnestness  that  the  Mother  of 
Mercy  surely  must  have  heard  their  prayer  :  '  Holy  Mary 
pray  for  us  now — at  the  hour  of  our  death.  Amen.'  ' 

In  a  subsequent  letter  (25th  July)  Fr.  Doyle  refers  to  some 
of  the  talks  which  he  gave  to  his  men  during  these  days. 
So  the  passage  may  be  inserted  here  "  Before  the  last 
big  battle,"  he  writes,  "  I  gave  the  men  a  few  talks  about 
Heaven,  where  I  hope  many  of  them  are  now.  I  have  the 
satisfaction  of  knowing  that  what  I  said  helped  the  poor 
fellows  a  good  deal,  and  made  them  face  the  coming  dangers 
with  a  stouter  heart.  The  man  of  whom  I  told  you  last 
year,  who  said  he  '  did  not  care  a  d—  -  for  all  the  b— 
German  shells,  (please  excuse  language),  because  he  was 
with  the  priest  that  morning/  expressed  in  a  forcible  manner 
what  many  another  felt,  that  when  all  is  said  and  done,  a 
man's  religion  is  his  biggest  (and  only  true)  consolation, 
and  the  source  of  real  courage.  I  reminded  them  of  the 
saying  of  the  Blessed  Cure  d'  Ars :  '  When  we  get  to  Heaven 
and  see  all  the  happiness  which  is  to  be  ours  for  ever,  we 
shall  wonder  why  we  wanted  to  remain  even  one  day  on 
earth.'  God  hides  these  things  from  our  eyes,  for  if  we 
saw  now  '  the  things  God  has  prepared  for  those  that  love 
Him/  life  on  earth  would  be  absolutely  unlivable,  and  so, 
I  said,  the  man  who  falls  in  the  charge  is  not  the  loser  but 
immensely  the  gainer,  is  not  the  unlucky  one  but  the  fortunate 
and  blessed.  You  should  have  seen  how  the  poor  chaps 
drank  in  every  word,  for  rough  and  ignorant  as  they  are, 
they  are  full  of  Faith  ;  though  I  fear  their  conception  of  an 
ideal  Heaven,  for  some  at  least,  would  be  a  place  of  unlimited 
drinks  and  no  closing  time  There  was  a  broad  smile  when 
I  told  them  so  !  " 

"  On  Wednesday  night,  June  6th,"  continues  Fr    Doyle, 
"  we  moved  off,  so  as  to  be  in  position  for  the  attack  at 


WYTSCHAETE   RIDGE  297 

3.10  a.m.  on  Thursday  morning,  the  Feast  of  Corpus  Christ!  ! 
I  got  to  the  little  temporary  chapel  at  the  rear  of  our  trenches 
soon  after  twelve,  and  tried  to  get  a  few  moments'  sleep 
before  beginning  Mass  at  one,  a  hopeless  task,  you  may 
imagine,  as  the  guns  had  gone  raging  mad.  I  could  not 
help  thinking  would  this  be  my  last  Mass,  though  I  really 
never  had  any  doubt  the  good  God  would  continue  to  protect 
me  in  the  future  as  He  had  done  in  the  past,  and  I  was  quite 
content  to  leave  myself  in  His  hands,  since  He  knows  what 
is  best  for  us  all." 

It  was  11.50  when  Fr.  Browne  and  Fr.  Doyle  reached 
the  little  sandbag  chapel  which  they  had  used  when  holding 
the  line.  There  they  lay  down  for  an  hour's  rest  on  two 
stretchers  borrowed  from  the  huge  pile  waiting  near  by  for 
the  morrow's  bloody  work.  Leaving  their  servant  lying 
fast  ^asleep  through  sheer  exhaustion,  the  two  chaplains  got 
up  at  i  a.m.  and  prepared  the  altar.  Fr.  Doyle  said  Mass 
first  and  was  served  by  Fr  Browne,  who,  not  having  yet 
made  his  Last  Vows,  renewed  his  Vows  at  the  Mass,  as  he 
always  did  at  home  on  Corpus  Christi.  It  was  surely  a 
weird  and  solemn  Renovation.  While  Fr.  Browne  unvested 
after  his  own  Mass  and  packed  up  the  things,  Fr.  Doyle 
and  his  servant  (now  awake)  prepared  breakfast.  At  2.30 
the  two  chaplains  put  on  their  battle  kit  and  made  for  their 
respective  aid  posts.  Up  near  the  front  line,  along  the 
hedgerows,  the  battalions  of  the  48th  Brigade  were  massed 
in  support  position.  Their  task  was  not  to  attack,  but  to 
follow  up  and  consolidate  and,  should  need  arise,  to  help 
the  leading  brigades.  "As  I  walked  up  to  my  post  at  the 
advanced  dressing  station,"  says  Fr.  Doyle,  "  I  prayed  for 
that  peace  of  a  perfect  trust  which  seems  to  be  so  pleasing 
to  our  Lord."  And  he  repeated  to  himself  the  verses  of  a 
little  leaflet  which  a  friend  had  sent  to  him  when  he  first 
became  chaplain  : 

Oh  !    for  the  peace  of  a  perfect  trust, 

My  loving  God,  in  Thee  ; 
Unwavering"  faith  that  never  doubts 
Thou  choosest  best  for  me. 

In  this  spirit,  in  which  he  had  so  often  schooled  himself 
during  his  years  of  spiritual  struggle,  he  waited  for  the  coming 
crash  of  battle. 


298  FATHER   WILLIAM   DOYLE,  SJ. 

"  It  wanted  half  an  hour,"  he  continues,  "to  zero  time — 
the  phrase  used  for  the  moment  of  attack.  The  guns  had 
ceased  firing,  to  give  their  crews  a  breathing  space  before 
the  storm  of  battle  broke  ;  for  a  moment  at  least  there  was 
peace  on  earth  and  a  calm  which  was  almost  more  trying 
than  the  previous  roar  to  us  who  knew  what  was  coming. 
A  prisoner  told  us  that  the  enemy  knew  we  were  about  to 
attack,  but  did  not  expect  it  for  another  couple  of  days. 
I  pictured  to  myself  our  men,  row  upon  row  waiting  in  the 
darkness  for  the  word  to  charge,  and  on  the  other  side  the 
Germans  in  their  trenches  and  dug-outs,  little  thinking  that 
seven  huge  mines  were  laid  under  their  feet,  needing  only 
a  spark  to  blow  them  into  eternity.  The  tension  of  waiting 
was  terrific,  the  strain  almost  unbearable.  One  felt  inclined 
to  scream  out  and  send  them  warning.  But  all  I  could  do 
was  to  stand  on  top  of  the  trench  and  give  them  Absolution, 
trusting  to  God's  mercy  to  speed  it  so  far. 

"  Even  now  I  can  scarcely  think  of  the  scene  which  followed 
without  trembling  with  horror.  Punctually  to  the  sec6nd 
at  3.10  a.m.  there  was  a  deep  muffled  roar  ;  the  ground  in 
front  of  where  I  stood  rose  up,  as  if  some  giant  had  wakened 
from  his  sleep  and  was  bursting  his  way  through  the  earth's 
crust,  and  then  I  saw  seven  huge  columns  of  smoke  and 
flames  shoot  hundreds  of  feet  into  the  air,  while  masses  of 
clay  and  stones,  tons  in  weight,  were  hurled  about  like 
pebbles.  I  never  before  realized  what  an  earthquake  was 
like,  for  not  only  did  the  ground  quiver  and  shake,  but 
actually  rocked  backwards  and  forwards,  so  that  I  kept  on 
my  feet  with  difficulty. 

"  Later  on  I  examined  one  of  the  mine  craters,  an  appalling 
sight,  for  I  knew  that  many  a  brave  man,  torn  and  burnt 
by  the  explosion,  lay  buried  there.  If  you  expand  very 
considerably  the  old  Dalkey  quarry  near  the  railway  and 
dig  it  twice  as  deep,  you  will  have  some  idea  of  the  size  of 
one  of  our  mine  craters,  twenty  of  which  were  blown  along 
the  front  of  our  attack. 

"  Before  the  de"bris  of  the  mines  had  begun  to  fall  to  earth, 
the  '  wild  Irish  '  were  over  the  top  of  the  trenches  and  on 
the  enemy,  though  it  seemed  certain  they  must  be  killed 
to  a  man  by  the  falling  avalanche  of  clay.  Even  a  stolid 


WYTSCHAETE   RIDGE  299 

English  Colonel  standing  near  was  moved  to  enthusiasm  : 
'  My  God  !  '  he  said,  '  what  soldiers  !  They  fear  neither 
man  nor  devil  !  '  Why  should  they  ?  They  had  made  their 
peace  with  God.  He  had  given  them  His  own  Sacred  Body 
to  eat  that  morning,  and  they  were  going  out  now  to  face 
death,  as  only  Irish  Catholic  lads  can  do,  confident  of  victory 
and  cheered  by  the  thought  that  the  reward  of  Heaven 
was  theirs.  Nothing  could  stop  such  a  rush,  and  so  fast 
was  the  advance  that  the  leading  files  actually  ran  into  the 
barrage  of  our  own  guns,  and  had  to  retire. 

"  Meanwhile  hell  itself  seemed  to  have  been  let  loose. 
With  the  roar  of  the  mines  came  the  deafening  crash  of  our 
guns,  hundreds  of  them.  This  much  I  can  say :  never 
before,  even  in  this  war,  have  so  many  batteries  especially 
of  heavy  pieces  been  concentrated  on  one  objective,  and 
how  the  Germans  were  able  to  put  up  the  resistance  they 
did  was  a  marvel  to  everybody,  for  our  shells  fell  like  hail 
stones.  In  a  few  moments  they  took  up  the  challenge,  and 
soon  things  on  our  side  became  warm  and  lively. 

"  In  a  short  time  the  wounded  began  to  come  in,  and  a 
number  of  German  prisoners,  many  of  them  wounded,  also. 
I  must  confess  my  heart  goes  out  to  these  unfortunate 
soldiers,  whose  sufferings  have  been  terrific.  I  can't  share 
the  general  sentiment  that  '  they  deserve  what  they  get 
and  one  better.'  For  after  all  are  they  not  children  of  the 
same  loving  Saviour  Who  said  :  '  Whatever  you  do  to  one 
of  these  My  least  ones  you  do  it  to  Me.'  I  try  to  show  them 
any  little  kindness  I  can,  getting  them  a  drink,  taking  off 
the  boots  from  smashed  and  bleeding  feet,  or  helping  to 
dress  their  wounds,  and  more  than  once  I  have  seen  the 
eyes  of  these  rough  men  fill  with  tears  as  I  bent  over  them, 
or  felt  my  hand  squeezed  in  gratitude. 

"  My  men  did  not  go  over  in  the  first  wave  ;  they  were 
held  in  reserve  to  move  up  as  soon  as  the  first  objective 
was  taken,  hold  the  position  and  resist  any  counter  attack. 
Most  of  them  were  waiting  behind  a  thick  sand-bag  wall 
not  far  from  the  advanced  dressing  station  where  I  was, 
which  enabled  me  to  keep  an  eye  upon  them. 

'  The  shells  were  coming  over  thick  and  fast  now,  and  at 
last,  what  I  expected  and  feared  happened.  A  big  '  crump  ll 

I. — 4 '2  shrapnel. 


300  FATHER   WILLIAM   DOYLE,   S.J. 

hit  the  wall  fair  and  square,  blew  three  men  into  the  field 
50  yards  away,  and  buried  five  others  who  were  in  a  small 
dug-out.  For  a  moment  I  hesitated,  for  the  horrible  sight 
fairly  knocked  the  '  starch  '  out  of  me  and  a  couple  more 
'  crumps  '  did  not  help  to  restore  my  courage. 

"  I  climbed  over  the  trench  and  ran  across  the  open,  as 
abject  a  coward  as  ever  walked  on  two  legs,  till  I  reached 
the  three  dying  men,  and  then  the  '  perfect  trust  '  came 
back  to  me  and  I  felt  no  fear.  A  few  seconds  sufficed  to 
absolve  and  anoint  my  poor  boys,  and  I  jumped  to  my  feet, 
only  to  go  down  on  my  face  faster  than  I  got  up,  as  an  express 
train  from  Berlin  roared  by. 

"  The  five  buried  men  were  calling  for  help,  but  the  others 
standing  around  seemed  paralysed  with  fear,  all  save  one 
sergeant,  whose  language  was  worthy  of  the  occasion  and 
rose  to  a  noble  height  of  sublimity.  He  was  working  like 
a  Trojan,  tearing  the  sand-bags  aside,  and  welcomed  my 
help  with  a  mingled  blessing  and  curse.  The  others  joined 
in  with  pick  and  shovel,  digging  and  pulling,  till  the  sweat 
streamed  from  our  faces,  and  the  blood  from  our  hands, 
bu£  we  got  three  of  the  buried  men  out  alive,  the  other  two 
had  been  killed  by  the  explosion.1 

"  Once  again  I  had  evidence  of  the  immense  confidence 
our  men  have  in  the  priest.  It  was  quite  evident  they  were 
rapidly  becoming  demoralized,  as  the  best  of  troops  will 
who  have  to  remain  inactive  under  heavy  shell  fire.  Little 
groups  were  running  from  place  to  place  for  greater  shelter, 
and  the  officers  seemed  to  have  lost  control.  I  walked 
along  the  line  of  men,  crouching  behind  the  sand-bag  wall, 
and  was  amused  to  see  the  ripple  of  smiles  light  up  the 
terrified  lads'  faces,  (so  many  are  mere  boys)  as  I  went  by. 
By  the  time  I  got  back  again  the  men  were  laughing  and 
chatting  as  if  all  danger  was  miles  away,  for  quite  unin 
tentionally,  I  had  given  them  courage  by  walking  along 


I. — Fr.  Doyle  did  not  forget  his  helper.  A  little  later  he  was  able  to  write  :  "You 
may  be  interested  to  hear  that  the  Sergeant  of  whom  1  spoke  in  my  long  letter  '  him 
of  the  ruddy  language,'  has  beer,  awarded  the  D.C.M.  (Distinguished  Conduct  Medal), 
the  private's  equivalent  of  the  M.C.  I  told  the  Colonel  of  his  coolness  and  fine  work 
in  digging  out  the  rive  buried  men,  and  recommended  him  for  a  decoration,  which  I 
am  glad  to  say  was  accepted  at  Head-Quarters.  The  poor  chap  is  very  proud  of  his 
medal,  which  I  told  him  he  won  by  his  eloquent  language." 


WYTSCHAETE   RIDGE  30* 

without  my  gas  mask  or  steel  helmet,  both  of  which  I  had: 
forgotten   in   my  hurry. 

"  When  the  regiment  moved  forward,  the  Doctor  and  I 
went  with  it.  By  this  time  the  '  impregnable  '  ridge  was 
in  our  hands  and  the  enemy  retreating  down  the  far  side. 
I  spent  the  rest  of  that  memorable  day  wandering  over  the 
battle  field  looking  for  the  wounded,  and  had  the  happiness 
of  helping  many  a  poor  chap,  for  shells  were  flying  about 
on  all  sides." 

"As  I  knew  there  was  no  chance  of  saying  Mass  next 
morning,  I  had  taken  the  precaution  of  bringing  several' 
Consecrated  Particles  with  me,  so  that  I  should  not  be 
deprived  of  Holy  Communion.  It  was  the  Feast  of  Corpus 
Christi  and  I  thought  of  the  many  processions  of  the  Blessed 
Sacrament  which  were  being  held  at  that  moment  all  over 
the  world.  Surely  there  never  was  a  stranger  one  than 
mine  that  day,  as  I  carried  the  God  of  Consolation  in  my 
unworthy  arms  over  the  blood-stained  battle  field.  There 
was  no  music  to  welcome  His  coming  save  the  scream  of  a 
passing  shell  ;  the  flowers  that  strewed  His  path  were  the 
broken,  bleeding  bodies  of  those  for  whom  He  had  once 
died;  and  the  only  Altar  of  Repose  He  could  find  was  the 
heart  of  one  who  was  working  for  Him  alone,  striving  in 
a  feeble  way  to  make  Him  some  return  for  all  His  love- 
and  goodness 

"  I  shall  make  no  attempt  to  describe  the  battle  field. 
Thank  God,  our  casualties  were  extraordinarily  light,  but 
there  was  not  a  yard  of  ground  on  which  a  shell  had  not 
pitched,  which  made  getting  about  very  laborious,  sliding 
down  one  crater  and  climbing  up  the  next,  and  also  increased 
the  difficulty  of  finding  the  wounded.1 

"  Providence  certainly  directed  my  steps  on  two  occasions 
at  least.  I  came  across  one  young  soldier  horribly  mutilated, 
all  his  intestines  hanging  out,  but  quite  conscious  and  able 
to  speak  to  me.  He  lived  long  enough  to  receive  the  Last 
Sacraments,  and  died  in  peace.  Later  on  in  the  evening 
I  was  going  in  a  certain  direction  when  something  made  me 

i. — As  a  result  of  having  to  wear  his  boots  so  continuously,  Fr.  Doyle  was  suffering 
from  very  severe  '  blood  blisters '  on  his  feet.  This  must  have  made  his  climbing  up 
and  down  shell-holes  an  excruciating  torture. 


302  FATHER   WILLIAM   DOYLE,   S.J. 

turn  back  when  I  saw  in  the  distance  a  man  being  carried 
on  a  stretcher.  He  belonged  to  the  artillery,  and  had  no 
chance  of  seeing  a  priest  for  a  long  time,  but  he  must  have 
been  a  good  lad,  for  Mary  did  not  forget  him  '  at  the  hour 
of  his  death.' 

"  The  things  I  remember  best  of  that  day  of  twenty-four 
hours'  work  are  :  the  sweltering  heat,  a  devouring  thirst 
which  comes  from  the  excitement  of  battle,  physical  weak 
ness  from  want  of  food,  and  a  weariness  and  footsoreness 
which  I  trust  will  pay  a  little  at  least  of  St.  Peter's  heavy 
score  against  me." 

The  next  two  days,  Friday  and  Saturday,  were  a  repetition 
of  Thursday.  Fighting  was  practically  over,  but  guns  were 
being  brought  up  and  positions  consolidated.  Fr.  Doyle 
had  little  rest  and  plenty  to  do,  and  on  at  least  one  occasion 
had  a  very  narrow  escape  from  an  eight-inch  shell.  Early 
on  Sunday  morning  the  exhausted  Battalions  were  relieved. 
After  the  battle  the  men  marched  back  by  easy  stages  to 
the  rear,  and  in  a  few  days  were  settled  down  '  in  quite  a 
nice  part  of  France/  billeted  in  comfortable  farmhouses  for 
a  few  weeks  of  rest  and  training — the  only  rest  which  was 
allowed  to  the  i6th  Division  in  the  two  years  and  three 
months  that  it  was  in  the  field. 


(5.)    His  LAST   SERMON. 

The  48th  Brigade  was  at  rest  or  rather  down  for  a  rifle 
shooting  course  near  St.  Omer.  The  2nd  and  8th  Dublins 
were  in  and  around  the  little  village  of  St.  Martin  au  Laert 
about  a  mile  and  a  half  from  St.  Omer,  the  gib.  Dublins 
about  a  mile  distant  in  a  country  camp,  and  the  R.  I.  Rifles 
a  little  further  away.  The  new  Bishop  of  Arras,  Boulogne 
and  St.  Omer,  Mgr.  Julien,  was  to  make  his  formal  entry 
into  Arras  on  Saturday,  2Oth  July,  and  to  be  present  next 
•day  at  the  conclusion  of  the  Novena  to  our  Lady  of  Miracles 
Through  the  instrumentality  of  Fr.  Browne,  with  the  ready 
compliance  of  General  Hickie,  it  was  arranged  that  there 
should  be  a  church  parade  in  honour  of  the  Bishop  on 


HIS  LAST  SERMON  303 

Sunday,  2ist.  About  2,500  men  came  down.  Fr.  Browne 
said  Mass  and  Fr.  Doyle  preached.  The  ceremony,  which 
was  most  impressive  and  successful,  has  fortunately  been 
described  in  a  letter  of  Fr.  Browne's,  which  we  are  allowed 
to  reproduce  : 

"  I  arrived  at  the  Cathedral  about  n  o'clock  (says 
Fr.  Browne),  and  was  in  despair  to  find  that  the  Pontifical 
High  Mass  was  not  yet  finished.  Our  people  are  so  punctual 
and  the  French  so  regardless  of  time-tables  that  I  was  sure 
there  would  be  confusion  and  delay  when  our  2,000  Catholics 
would  begin  to  arrive.  But  it  was  not  to  be.  Quietly  and 
wonderfully  quickly  the  Mass  ended,  and  the  people  went 
out  to  watch  the  Bishop  go  back  in  procession  to  his  house 
close  by.  I  was  relieved  to  see  that  neither  he  nor  any  of 
the  priests  unvested.  Then  Fr.  Doyle  and  I  had  to  try 
to  clear  away  the  hundred  or  so  people  who  remained  and 
the  other  hundred  or  so  people  who  came  wandering  in  for 
the  last  Mass — which  for  the  day  was  to  be  ours.  '  Donnez 
place,  s'il  vous  plait,  aux  soldats  qui  vont  arriver,'1  I  went 
round  saying  to  everyone.  They  moved  from  the  great 
aisle  and  got  into  the  side-chapels,  leaving  the  transepts 
and  aisles  free.  Many  refused  to  do  this  when  with  pious 
exaggeration  I  said,  '  Presque  3,000  soldats  Irlandais  vont 
arriver  tout  a  ]'  heure.'2  And  lo  !  they  were  coming. 
Through  all  the  various  doors  they  came,  the  Qth  Dubs, 
marching  in  by  the  great  western  door,  the  8th  Dubs,  through 
the  beautiful  southern  door,  through  which  St.  Louis  was  the 
first  to  pass  just  700  years  ago,  the  2nd  Dubs,  coming  into 
the  northern  aisle  and  making  their  way  up  to  the  northern 
transept.  Rank  after  rank  the  men  poured  in  until  the 
vast  nave  was  one  solid  mass  of  khaki  with  the  red  caps  of 
General  Hickie  and  his  staff  and  the  Brigadiers  in  front. 
Then  up  the  long  nave  at  a  quick  clanking  march  came  the 
Guard  of  Honour.  Every  button  of  its  men,  every  badge, 
shone  and  shone  again  ;  their  belts  were  scrubbed  till  not 
even  the  strictest  inspection  could  reveal  the  slightest  stain, 
and  their  fixed  bayonets  only  wanted  the  sun  to  show  how 
they  could  flash.  Up  they  came,  and  with  magnificent 

I. — Make  room,  please,  for  the  soldiers  who  are  coming. 
2. — About  3,000  Irish  soldiers  are  just  coming. 


FATHER   WILLIAM   DOYLE,   S.J. 

precision  took  their  places  on  either  side  of  the  altar.  I 
was  just  leaving  the  sacristy  to  begin  Mass  when  I  saw  the 
Bishop's  procession  arriving.  He  had  promised  to  come 
only  after  the  sermon,  but  here  he  was  at  the  beginning  of 
the  ceremony,  making  everything  complete.  Of  course,  I 
saw  nothing,  being  engaged  in  saying  Mass,  but  those  who 
did  said  it  was  a  wonderful  sight.  The  beautiful  altar, 
standing  at  the  crossing  of  the  transepts  and  backed  by  the 
long  arches  of  the  apse  and  choir,  was  for  the  feast  surrounded 
by  a  lofty  throne  bearing  the  statue  of  our  Lady  of  Miracles. 
The  sides  were  banked  up  high  with  palms  ;  then  the  Guard 
of  Honour  standing  rigidly  in  two  lines  on  either  side ;  lastly 
the  Bishop  in  his  beautiful  purple  robes  on  his  throne.  From 
the  pulpit  Fr.  Doyle  directed  the  singing  of  the  hymns,  and 
then,  after  the  Gospel,  he  preached.  I  knew  he  could  preach, 
but  I  had  hardly  expected  that  anyone  could  speak  as  he 
spoke  then.  First  of  all  he  referred  to  the  Bishop's  coming, 
and  very,  very  tactfully  spoke  of  the  terrible  circumstances 
of  the  time.  Next  he  went  on  to  speak  of  our  Lady  and  the 
Shrine  to  which  we  had  come.  Gradually  the  story  was 
unfolded  ;  he  spoke  wonderfully  of  the  coming  of  the  Old 
Irish  Brigade  in  their  wanderings  over  the  Low  Countries. 
It  was  here  that  he  touched  daringly,  but  ever  so  cleverly, 
on  Ireland's  part  in  the  war.  Fighting  for  Ireland  and  not 
fighting  for  Ireland,  or  rather  fighting  for  Ireland  through 
another.  Then  he  passed  on  to  Daniel  O'Connell's  time  as 
a  schoolboy  at  St.  Omer  and  his  visit  to  the  Shrine.  It 
certainly  was  very  eloquent.  Everyone  spoke  most  highly 
of  it  afterwards,  the  men  particularly,  they  were  delighted.1 

"After  the  sermon  Mass  went  on.  At  the  Sanctus  I  heard 
the  subdued  order,  '  Guard  of  Honour,  'shun  !  '  There  was 
a  click  as  rifles  and  feet  came  to  position  together.  Then 

I. — [The  sermon  appealed  to  the  men  by  its  more  or  less  historical  reference  to  the 
Irish  Brigade  that  had  come  there  three  hundred  years  before.  The  men  of  the  8th 
Dublins  declared  that  Fr.  Doyle  "  ought  to  get  into  Jim  Larkin's  shoes  ! "  It  appealed 
to  others  for  a  different  reason.  General  Ramsay  (a  Protestant)  stated  afterwards 
that  it  was  one  of  the  most  tactful  and  impressive  sermons  he  had  ever  heard, 
and  General  Hickie  said  that  he  was  intensely  pleased  with  the  way  in  which 
*  dangerous '  topics  had  been  handled  without  offending  anyone.  It  certainly  required 
some  diplomatic  skill  to  appeal  to  Irish  regiments  in  the  British  Army  by  evoking 
memories  of  the  Irish  Brigade  which  fought  against  England.  Nor  was  it  easy,  with 
out  hurting  English  susceptibilities,  to  convey  the  (act  that  the  Irish  soldiers  who  were 
listening  were  righting  for  what  they  believed  was  Ireland's  cause  as  well  as  Belgium's. 
Fr.  Doyle  succeeded.] 


HIS   LAST   SERMON  305 

as  the  Bishop  came  from  his  throne  to  kneel  before  the  altar, 
twelve  little  boys  in  scarlet  soutanes,  with  scarlet  sashes 
over  their  lace  surplices,  appeared  with  lighted  torches  and 
knelt  behind  his  Lordship.  At  the  second  bell  came  the 
command,  '  Guard  of  Honour,  slope  rifles  !  '  And  then  as 
I  bent  over  the  Host,  I  heard,  '  Present  arms  !  '  There  was 
the  quick  click,  click,  click,  and  silence,  till,  as  I  genuflected, 
from  the  organ-gallery  rang  out  the  loud  clear  notes  of  the 
buglers  sounding  the  General's  Salute." 

At  the  end  of  the  Mass  the  Bishop  in  a  neat  little  speech 
thanked  the  men  for  the  great  honour  they  had  paid  him. 
He  was  especially  struck,  he  said,  by  the  fact  that  most 
of  them  had  marched  a  long  way  (some  nearly  ten  kilometres) 
to  attend,  and  he  asked  those  of  his  flock  who  were  present 
to  learn  a  lesson  from  the  grand  spirit  and  deep  faith  of  the 
Irish  soldiers.  The  ceremony  concluded  by  a  march  past, 
with  bands  playing,  in  front  of  the  Episcopal  Palace.  The 
Bishop  stood  on  the  steps  of  his  house,  beaming  as  he  replied 
to  the  '  eyes  right  '  of  each  company  as  it  passed  him. 

This  last  sermon  of  Fr.  Doyle  will  serve  as  a  final  proof — 
if  such  be  needed — that  the  man,  whose  inner  life  has  been 
portrayed  in  previous  chapters,  was  no  awkward  recluse  or 
unpractical  pietist.  He  was  full  of  lovable  human  qualities  ; 
especially  conspicuous  was  his  unselfish  thoughtfulness  which 
always  seemed  so  natural,  so  intertwined  with  playful 
spontaneity,  that  one  came  to  take  it  for  granted.  He  had 
a  wonderful  influence  over  others  and  knew  how  to  win 
the  human  heart  because  he  had  learnt  the  Master's  secret 
of  drawing  all  to  himself.  He  could,  as  we  have  just  seen, 
preach  persuasively  when  occasion  demanded  ;  but  his  real 
sermon  was  his  own  life.  And  from  this  pulpit  he  spoke 
alike  to  Protestants  and  Catholics.  "  For  fifteen  months," 
writes  Dr.  C.  Buchanan  (gth  Sept.,  1917),  "  Fr.  Doyle  and 
I  worked  together  out  here,  generally  sharing  the  same 
dug-outs  and  billets,  so  we  became  fast  friends,  I  acting  as 
medical  officer  to  his  first  Battalion.  Often  I  envied  him 
his  coolness  and  courage  in  the  face  of  danger  :  for  this 
alone  his  men  would  have  loved  him,  but  he  had  other 
sterling  qualities,  which  we  all  recognised  only  too  well. 
He  was  beloved  and  respected,  not  only  by  those  of  his  own 


306  FATHER   WILLIAM   DOYLE,   S.J. 

Faith,  but  equally  by  Protestants,  to  which  denomination 
I  belong.  To  illustrate  this — Poor  Captain  Eaton,  before 
going  into  action  last  September,  asked  Fr.  Doyle  to  do 
what  was  needful  for  him  if  anything  happened  to  him,  as 
he  should  feel  happier  if  he  had  a  friend  to  bury  him.  Capt. 
Eaton  was  one  of  many  whom  Fr.  Doyle  and  I  placed  in  their 
last  resting  place  with  a  few  simple  prayers.  For  his  broad- 
mindedness  we  loved  him.  He  seldom  if  ever  preached, 
but  he  set  us  a  shining  example  of  a  Christian  life."1 

A  similar  testimony  is  eloquently  conveyed  in  a  little 
incident  recorded  by  Fr.  Doyle  in  a  letter  which  he  wrote 
to  his  father  on  25th  July,  1917.  He  wrote  it  seated  on  a 
comfortable  roadside  bank  under  a  leafy  hedge,  listening, 
during  this  intermezzo  from  the  dreadful  drama  of  war,  to 
the  nightingales  singing  in  the  Bois  de  Rossignol  near  by. 
"  While  I  was  writing,"  he  says,  "  one  of  my  men,  belonging 
to  the  Irish  Rifles,  of  which  I  have  charge  also,  passed  by. 
We  chatted  for  a  few  minutes  and  then  he  went  on,  but 
came  back  shortly  with  a  steaming  bowl  of  coffee  which 
he  had  bought  for  me.  '  I  am  not  one  of  your  flock,  Father,' 
he  said,  '  but  we  have  all  a  great  liking  for  you.'  And  then 
he  added  :  '  If  all  the  officers  treated  us  as  you  do,  our  lives 
would  be  different.'  I  was  greatly  touched  by  the  poor 
lad's  thoughtfulness,  and  impressed  by  what  he  said  :  a 
kind  word  often  goes  further  than  one  thinks,  and  one  loses 
nothing  by  remembering  that  even  soldiers  are  human 
beings  and  have  feelings  like  anyone  else." 

There  lies  the  secret  of  Fr.  Doyle's  popularity — his 
Christlike  democracy.  With  him  there  was  neither  Jew  nor 
Gentile,  neither  officer  nor  private  ;  all  were  men,  human 
beings,  souls  for  whom  Christ  died.  Every  man  was  equally 
precious  to  him  ;  beneath  every  mud-begrimed  unkempt 
figure  he  discerned  a  human  personality.2  He  would  risk 
ten  lives,  if  he  had  them,  to  bring  help  and  comfort  to  a 
dying  soldier  no  matter  who  he  was.  Once  he  rushed  up 


I. — Once  when  Dr.  Buchanan  was  unwell  and  there  were  no  blankets  to  lie 
upon  in  the  damp  dug-out,  Fr.  Doyle  lay  flat,  face  downwards,  on  the  ground, 
and  made  the  doctor  lie  upon  him. 

2. — Hence  too  he  often  reverently  gathered  up  in  a  handkerchief  and  buried 
the  remains  of  what  had  once  enshrined  a  human  soul. 


HIS   LAST   SERMON  307 

to  a  wounded  Ulsterman  and  knelt  beside  him.  "Ah, 
Father,"  said  the  man,  "  I  don't  belong  to  your  Church/' 
"  No,"  replied  Fr  Doyle,  "  but  you  belong  to  my  God." 
To  Fr.  Doyle  all  were,  brothers  to  be  ministered  unto.  "  He 
that  will  be  first  among  you  shall  be  your  servant,  even  as 
the  Son  of  Man  is  not  come  to  be  ministered  unto  but  to 
minister,  and  to  give  His  life  a  redemption  for  many." 
(5.  Matthew  20.  27.) 


(6.)  THE  BATTLE  OF  YPRES.1 

"  We  shall  have  desperate  fighting  soon,"  wrote  Fr.  Doyle 
in  a  private  letter  dated  25th  July,  "  but  I  have  not  the  least 
fear,  on  the  contrary  a  great  joy  in  the  thought  that  I  shall 
be  able  to  make  a  real  offering  of  my  life  to  God,  even  if 
He  does  not  think  that  poor  life  worth  taking."  To  avoid 
causing  anxiety  he  said  nothing  to  his  father  about  the 
impending  battle  until  the  first  phase  was  over.  On  I2th 
August  he  sent  home  his  last  letter,  a  long  budget  or  diary 
which  will  enable  us  to  describe,  chiefly  in  his  own  words, 
the  events  which  occurred  up  to  that  date. 

By  way  of  preface  we  shall  first  transcribe  from  the  letter 
a  little  story  which,  in  spite  of  its  humorous  setting,  has  a 
serious  application  to  his  own  hard  life.  "  Help  comes  to 
one  in  strange  ways,"  he  writes,  "  and  the  remembrance 
of  a  quaint  old  story  has  lightened  for  me  the  weight  of  a 
heavy  pair  of  boots  over  many  a  mile  of  muddy  road.  The 
story  may  interest  you  : 

"  In  the  good  old  days  of  yore  a  holy  hermit  built  him  a 
cell  in  a  spot  a  few  miles  from  the  well,  so  that  he  might 
have  a  little  act  of  penance  to  offer  to  Almighty  God  each 
day  by  tramping  across  the  hot  sand  and  back  again  with 
his  pitcher.  All  went  gaily  for  a  while,  and  if  the  holy 
man  did  lose  many  a  drop  of  honest  sweat  he  knew  he  was 
piling  up  sacks  of  treasure  in  Heaven,  and  his  heart  was 
light.  But — oh  !  that  little  '  but '  which  spoils  so  many 
things — but  though  the  spirit  was  willing,  the  sun  was  very 

i. — See  map  on  p.  223. 


308  FATHER   WILLIAM   DOYLE,   S.J. 

warm,  the  sand  most  provokingly  hot,  the  pitcher  the  devil 
and  all  of  a  weight,  and  the  road  seemingly  longer  each 
day.  '  It  is  a  bit  too  much  of  a  good  joke/  thought  the 
man  of  God,  '  to  tramp  these  miles  day  in  and  day  out, 
with  my  old  bones,  clanking  like  a  traction  engine.  Why 
not  move  the  cell  to  the  edge  of  the  water,  save  time  (and 
much  bad  language  probably)  and  have  cool  water  in 
abundance,  and  a  dry  hair  shirt  on  my  back  ?  ' 

"Away  home  he  faced  for  the  last  time  with  his  brimming 
water  jar,  kicking  the  sand  about  in  sheer  delight,  for  the 
morrow  would  see  him  on  the  trek,  and  an  end  to  his  weary 
trudging,  when  suddenly  he  heard  a  voice,  an  angel's  voice 
he  knew  it  to  be,  counting  slowly  '  One,  two,  three,  four.' 
The  hermit  stopped  in  wonder  and  so  did  the  voice,  but 
at  the  next  steps  he  took  the  counting  began  again,  '  Five, 
six,  seven.'  Falling  on  his  knees  the  old  man  prayed  that 
he  might  know  the  meaning  of  this  wonder.  '  I  am  the 
angel  of  God,'  came  the  answer,  '  counting  up  each  step 
which  long  ago  you  offered  up  to  my  Lord  and  Master,  so 
that  not  a  single  one  may  lose  its  reward.  Don't  be  so 
foolish  as  to  throw  away  the  immense  merit  you  are  gaining, 
by  moving  your  cell  to  the  water's  edge,  for  know  that  in 
the  eyes  of  the  heavenly  court  nothing  is  small  which  is 
done  or  borne  for  the  love  of  God.' 

'  That  very  night  down  came  the  hermit's  hut,  and  before 
morning  broke  he  had  built  it  again  five  miles  further  from 
the  well.  For  all  I  know  he  is  merrily  tramping  still  back 
wards  and  forwards  across  the  burning  sand,  very  hot  and 
tired  no  doubt,  but  happy  in  the  thought  that  the  recording 
angel  is  busy  counting  each  step. 

"  I  do  not  think  I  need  point  the  moral.  But  I  hope 
and  pray  that  my  own  good  angel  is  strong  at  arithmetic, 
and  won't  get  mixed  when  he  starts  his  long  tot  !  " 

To  understand  this  little  parable  is  to  understand  much 
of  Fr.  Doyle's  life,  his  desire  to  emulate  his  angel  guardian's 
arithmetic  as  well  as  his  inveterate  habit  of  adding  to,  instead 
of  subtracting  from,  the  '  hard  things '  of  life. 

We  can  now  begin  his  record  of  these  last  terrible 
experiences. 


THE   BATTLE   OF   YPRES  309 

joth  July. 

"  For  the  past  week  we  have  been  moving  steadily  up  to 
the  Front  once  more  to  face  the  hardships  and  horrors  of 
another  big  push,  which  report  says  is  to  be  the  biggest 
effort  since  the  War  began.  The  blood-stained  Ypres  battle 
field  is  to  be  the  centre  of  the  fight,  with  our  left  wing  running 
down  to  the  Belgian  coast  from  which  it  is  hoped  to  drive 
the  enemy  and,  perhaps,  force  him  by  a  turning  movement 
to  fall  back  very  far. 

"  The  preparations  are  on  a  colossal  scale,  the  mass  of  men 
and  guns  enormous.  '  Success  is  certain '  our  Generals  tell 
us,  biit  I  cannot  help  wondering  what  are  the  plans  of  the 
Great  Leader,  and  what  the  result  will  be  when  He  has  issued 
His  orders.  This  much  is  certain  :  the  fight  will  be  a 
desperate  one,  for  our  foe  is  not  only  brave,  but  clever  and 
cunning,  as  we  have  learned  to  our  cost. 

"  Mass  in  the  open  this  morning  under  a  drizzling  rain 
was  a  trying  if  edifying  experience.  Colonel,  officers  and 
men  knelt  on  the  wet  grass  with  the  water  trickling  off  them, 
while  a  happy  if  somewhat  damp  chaplain  moved  from 
rank  to  rank  giving  every  man  Holy  Communion.  Poor 
fellows  :  with  all  their  faults  God  must  love  them  dearly 
for  their  simple  faith  and  love  of  their  religion,  and  for  the 
confident  way  in  which  they  turn  to  Him  for  help  in  the 
hour  of  trial. 

"  One  of  my  converts,  received  into  the  Church  last  night, 
made  his  First  Holy  Communion  this  morning  under  cir 
cumstances  he  will  not  easily  forget.  I  see  in  the  paper 
that  13,000  soldiers  and  officers  have  become  Catholics 
since  the  War  began,  but  I  should  say  this  number  is  much 
below  the  mark.  Ireland's  missionaries,  the  light-hearted 
lads  who  shoulder  a  rifle  and  swing  along  the  muddy  roads, 
have  taught  many  a  man  more  religion,  by  their  silent 
example,  than  he  ever  dreamed  of  before.1 

"  Many  a  time  one's  heart  grows  sick  to  think  how  few 

I. — As  I  transcribe  these  words  of  Fr.  Doyle,  there  lies  before  me  a  letter 
from  another  chaplain:  "The  men  are  -wonderful — I  ought  to  write  it  in 
capitals— so  cheerful  and  so  patient  amidst  their  very  real  sufferings.  I  refer  to 
the  Irish  element  in  the  battalion,  for  there  is  a  most  marked  difference  in  the 
demeanour  and  conduct  of  the  various  groups.  Now  I  need  hardly  ask  the 
origin  of  a  particular  group  or  individual ;  the  attitude  of  mind,  body  and  lips 
is  sufficient  for  me." 


310  FATHER  WILLIAM   DOYLE,   SJ. 

will  ever  see  home  and  country  again,  for  their  pluck  and 
daring  have  marked  them  down  for  the  positions  which 
only  the  Celtic  dash  can  take  :  a  post  of  honour,  no  doubt, 
but  it  means  slaughter  as  well.1 

"  We  moved  off  at  10  p.m.,  a  welcome  hour  in  one  way, 
as  it  means  marching  in  the  cool  of  the  night  instead  of 
sweating  under  a  blazing  sun.  Still  when  one  has  put  in 
a  long  day  of  hard  work,  and  legs  and  body  are  pretty  well 
tired  out  already,  the  prospect  of  a  stiff  march  is  not  too 
pleasant." 

3ist  July. 

"  It  was  1.30  a.m.  when  our  first  halting  place  was  reached, 
and  as  we  march  again  at  three,  little  time  was  wasted 
getting  to  sleep.  It  was  the  morning  of  July  3ist,  the 
Feast  of  St.  Ignatius,  a  day  dear  to  every  Jesuit,  but  doubly 
so  to  the  soldier  sons  of  the  soldier  saint.  Was  it  to  be 
Mass  or  sleep  ?  Nature  said  sleep,  but  grace  won  the  day, 
and  while  the  weary  soldiers  slumbered  the  Adorable  Sacrifice 
was  offered  for  them,  that  God  would  bless  them  in  the 
coming  fight  and,  if  it  were  His  Holy  Will,  bring  them  safely 
through  it.  Mass  and  thanksgiving  over,  a  few  precious 
moments  of  rest  on  the  floor  of  the  hut,  and  we  have  fallen 
into  line  once  more. 

"As  we  do,  the  dark  clouds  are  lit  up  with  red  and  golden 
flashes  of  light,  the  earth  quivers  with  the  simultaneous 
crash  of  thousands  of  guns  and  in  imagination  we  can  picture 
the  miles  of  our  trenches  spring  to  life  as  the  living  stream 
of  men  pours  over  the  top — the  Fourth  Battle  of  Ypres 
has  begun. 

"  Men's  hearts  beat  faster,  and  nerves  seem  to  stretch 
and  vibrate  like  harp  strings  as  we  march  steadily  on  ever 
nearer  and  nearer  towards  the  raging  fight,  on  past  battery 
after  battery  of  huge  guns  and  howitzers  belching  forth 
shells  which  ten  men  could  scarcely  lift,  on  past  the  growing 
streams  of  motor  ambulances,  each  with  its  sad  burden  of 
broken  bodies,  the  first  drops  of  that  torrent  of  wounded 

i. — Fr.  Doyle  met  his  death  in  the  next  '  post  of  honour '  assigned  to  his  Irish 
flock  in  spite  of  what  they  had  suffered  during  the  previous  day.  On  i6th 
August  the  l6th  Division  made  an  advance  along  the  Frezenberg  ridge  behind 
Ypres,  where  English  Divisions  had  already  failed  several  times. 


THE   BATTLE   OF   YPRES  311 

which  will  pour  along  the  road.  I  fancy  not  a  few  were 
wondering  how  long  would  it  be  till  they  were  carried  past 
in  the  same  way,  or  was  this  the  last  march  they  would 
ever  make  till  the  final  Roll  Call  on  the  Great  Review  Day. 

"  We  were  to  be  held  in  reserve  for  the  opening  stages  of 
the  battle,  so  we  lay  all  that  day  (the  3ist)  in  the  open  fields 
ready  to  march  at  a  moment's  notice  should  things  go  badly 
at  the  Front.  Bit  by  bit  news  of  the  fight  came  trickling 
in.  The  Jocks  (i5th  Scottish  Division)  in  front  of  us,  had 
taken  the  first  and  second  objective  with  little  opposition, 
and  were  pushing  on  to  their  final  goal.  All  was  going 
well,  and  the  steady  stream  of  prisoners  showed  that  for 
once  Dame  Rumour  was  not  playing  false.  Our  spirits 
rose  rapidly  in  spite  of  the  falling  rain,  for  word  reached 
us  that  we  were  to  return  to  the  camp  for  the  night  as  our 
services  would  not  be  required.  Then  the  sun  of  good  news 
began  to  set,  and  ugly  rumours  to  float  about. 

'  Whether  it  was  the  impetuous  Celtic  dash  that  won 
the  ground,  or  part  of  German  strategy,  the  enemy  centre 
gave  way  while  the  wings  held  firm.  This  trick  has  been 
played  so  often  and  so  successfully  one  would  imagine  we 
should  not  have  been  caught  napping  again,  but  the 
temptation  for  victorious  troops  to  rush  into  an  opening 
is  almost  too  strong  to  be  resisted,  and  probably  the  real 
state  of  affairs  on  the  wings  was  not  known.  The  Scotties 
reached  their  objective,  only  to  find  they  were  the  centre 
of  a  murderous  fire  from  three  sides,  and  having  beaten  off 
repeated  counter-attacks  of  the  '  demoralized  enemy  '  were 
obliged  to  retire  some  distance.  So  far  the  Germans  had 
not  done  too  badly. 

"  It  was  nearly  eight  o'clock,  and  our  dinner  was  simmering 
in  the  pot  with  a  tempting  odour,  when  the  fatal  telegram 
came  :  '  the  battalion  will  move  forward  in  support  at  once.' 
I  was  quite  prepared  for  this  little  change  of  plans  having 
experienced  such  surprises  before,  and  had  taken  the 
precaution  of  laying  in  a  solid  lunch  early  in  the  day.  I 
did  not  hear  a  single  growl  from  anyone,  though  it  meant 
we  had  to  set  out  for  another  march  hungry  and  dinnerless, 
with  the  prospect  of  passing  a  second  night  without  sleep. 
When  I  give  my  next  nuns'  retreat  I  think  I  shall  try  the 


312  FATHER   WILLIAM   DOYLE,   S.J. 

experiment  of  a  few  supperless  and  bedless  nights  on  them, 
just  to  see  what  they  would  say,  and  compare  notes  with 
the  soldiers.  The  only  disadvantage  would  be  that  I  should 
be  inundated  with  applications  to  give  similar  retreats  in 
other  convents,  everyone  being  so  delighted  with  the 
experiment,  especially  the  good  Mother  Bursar  who  would 
simply  coin  money  ! 

"  On  the  road  once  more  in  strict  fighting  kit,  the  clothes 
we  stood  in,  a  rain  coat,  and  a  stout  heart.  A  miserable 
night  with  a  cold  wind  driving  the  drizzling  rain  into  our 
faces  and  the  ground  underfoot  being  rapidly  churned  into 
a  quagmire  of  slush  and  mud.  I  hope  the  Recording  Angel 
will  not  be  afraid  of  the  weather  and  will  not  get  as  tired 
of  counting  the  steps  as  I  did  :  '  Ten  thousand  and  one, 
ten  thousand  and  two/ — a  bit  monotonous  even  with  the 
memory  of  the  old  hermit  to  help  one. 

'  The  road  was  a  sight  never  to  be  forgotten.  On  one 
side  marched  our  column  in  close  formation,  on  the  other 
galloped  by  an  endless  line  of  ammunition  waggons,  extra 
guns  hurrying  up  to  the  Front,  and  motor  lorries  packed 
with  stores  of  all  kinds,  while  between  the  two  flowed  back 
the  stream  of  empties  and  ambulance  after  ambulance  filled 
with  wounded  and  dying. 

"  In  silence,  save  for  the  never  ceasing  roar  of  the  guns 
and  the  rumble  of  cart  wheels,  we  marched  on  through  the 
city  of  the  dead,  Ypres,  not  a  little  anxious,  for  a  shower 
of  shells  might  come  at  any  minute.  Ruin  and  desolation, 
desolation  and  ruin,  is  the  only  description  I  can  give  of  a 
spot  once  the  pride  and  glory  of  Belgium.  The  hand  of 
war  has  fallen  heavy  on  the  city  of  Ypres  ;  scarce  a  stone 
remains  of  the  glorious  Cathedral  and  equally  famous  Cloth 
Hall ;  the  churches,  a  dozen  of  them,  are  piles  of  rubbish, 
gone  are  the  convents,  the  hospitals  and  public  buildings, 
and  though  many  of  the  inhabitants  are  still  there,  their 
bodies  lie  buried  in  the  ruins  of  their  homes,  and  the  smell 
of  rotting  corpses  poisons  the  air.  I  have  seen  strange 
sights  in  the  last  two  years,  but  this  was  the  worst  of  all. 
Out  again  by  the  opposite  gate  of  this  stricken  spot,  which 
people  say  was  not  undeserving  of  God's  chastisement,  across 
the  moat  and  along  the  road  pitted  all  over  with  half  filled 


THE   BATTLE   OF   YPRES  313 

in  shell-holes.  Broken  carts  and  dead  horses,  with  human 
bodies  too  if  one  looked,  lie  on  all  sides,  but  one  is  too  weary 
to  think  of  anything  except  how  many  more  miles  must 
be  covered 

"A  welcome  halt  at  last  with,  perhaps,  an  hour  or  more 
delay.  The  men  were  already  stretched  by  the  side  of  the 
road,  and  I  was  not  slow  to  follow  their  example.  I  often 
used  to  wonder  how  anyone  could  sleep  lying  in  mud  or 
water,  but  at  that  moment  the  place  for  sleep,  as  far  as  I 
was  concerned,  did  not  matter  two  straws,  a  thorn  bush, 
the  bed  of  a  stream,  anywhere  would  do  to  satisfy  the  longing 
for  even  a  few  moments'  slumber  after  nearly  two  days 
and  nights  of  marching  without  sleep.  I  picked  out  a  soft 
spot  on  the  ruins  of  a  home,  lay  down  with  a  sigh  of  relief, 
and  then,  for  all  I  cared,  all  the  King's  guns  and  the  Kaiser's 
combined  might  roar  till  they  were  hoarse,  and  all  the  rain 
in  the  heavens  might  fall,  as  it  was  falling  then,  I  was  too 
tired  and  happy  to  bother. 

:'  I  was  chuckling  over  the  disappearance  of  the  officer 
in  front  of  me  into  a  friendly  trench  from  which  he  emerged 
if  possible  a  little  more  muddy  than  he  was,  when  I  felt 
my  two  legs  shoot  from  under  me,  and  I  vanished  down  the 
sides  of  a  shell-hole  which  I  had  not  noticed.  As  I  am  not 
making  a  confession  of  my  whole  life,  I  shall  not  tell  you 
what  I  said,  but  it  was  something  different  from  the 
exclamation  of  the  pious  old  gentleman  who  used  to  mutter 
'  Tut,  tut '  every  time  he  missed  the  golf  ball. 

'  The  Head  Quarters  Staff  found  shelter  in  an  old  mine- 
shaft,  dark,  foul-smelling,  and  dripping  water  which  promised 
soon  to  flood  us  out.  Still  it  was  some  protection  from  the 
down-pour  outside,  and  I  slept  like  a  top  for  some  hours 
in  a  dry  corner  sitting  on  a  coil  of  wire." 

ist  August. 

"  Morning  brought  a  leaden  sky,  more  rain,  and  no 
breakfast  !  Our  cook  with  the  rations  had  got  lost  during 
the  night,  so  there  was  nothing  for  it  but  to  tighten  one's 
belt  and  bless  the  man  (backwards)  who  invented  eating. 
But  He  Who  feeds  the  birds  of  the  air  did  not  forget  us, 
and  by  mid-day  we  were  sitting  down  before  a  steaming 


314  FATHER   WILLIAM   DOYLE,   S.J. 

tin  of  tea,  bully  beef  and  biscuits,  a  banquet  fit  to  set  before 
an  emperor  after  nearly  twenty-four  hours'  fast.  Not  for 
a  moment  during  the  whole  of  the  day  did  the  merciless 
rain  cease.  The  men,  soaked  to  the  skin  and  beyond  it, 
were  standing  up  to  their  knees  in  a  river  of  mud  and  water, 
and  like  ourselves  were  unable  to  get  any  hot  food  till  the 
afternoon.  Our  only  consolation  was  that  our  trenches  were 
not  shelled  and  we  had  no  casualties.  Someone  must  have 
had  compassion  on  our  plight,  for  when  night  fell  a  new 
Brigade  came  in  to  relieve  us,  much  to  our  surprise  and 
joy.  Back  to  the  camp  we  had  left  the  previous  night,  one 
of  the  hardest  marches  I  ever  put  in,  but  cheered  at  the 
thought  of  a  rest.  Once  again  we  got  through  Ypres  without 
a  shell,  though  they  fell  before  and  after  our  passing ;  good 
luck  was  on  our  side  for  once." 

Here  they  remained  for  a  couple  of  days,  and  it  was  during 
this  interval  that  Fr  Doyle  wrote  the  above  little  chronicle. 
He  resumed  it  on  the  morning  of  Sunday,  i2th  August. 
"  Dearest  Father,"  he  began,  "  when  I  finished  writing  the 
last  line  I  could  not  help  asking  myself  should  I  ever  continue 
this  little  narrative  of  my  adventures  and  experiences,  for 
we  were  under  marching  orders  to  make  our  way  that  night 
to  the  Front  Line,  a  series  of  shell  holes  in  the  ground  won 
from  the  enemy.  To  hold  this  we  knew  would  be  no  easy 
task,  but  I  little  thought  of  what  lay  before  me,  of  the 
thousand  and  one  dangers  I  was  to  pass  through  unscathed, 
or  of  the  hardship  and  suffering  which  were  to  be  crowded 
into  the  next  few  days. 

"It  is  Sunday  morning,  August  I2th.  We  have  just  got 
back  to  camp  after  (for  me  at  least)  six  days  and  seven 
continuous  nights  on  the  battle-field.  There  was  no  chance 
last  night  of  a  moment's  rest,  and  you  may  imagine  there 
was  little  sleep  the  previous  nights  either,  sitting  on  a  box 
with  one's  feet  in  12  inches  of  water.  For  the  past  forty- 
eight  hours  we  have  lived,  eaten  and  slept  in  a  flooded 
dug-out,  which  you  left  at  the  peril  of  your  life,  so  you  may 
fancy  what  relief  it  was  to  change  one's  sodden  muddy 
clothes. 

'  Tired  as  I  am,  I  cannot  rest  till  I  try  to  give  you  some 
account  of  what  has  happened,  for  I  know  you  must  be 


THE   BATTLE   OF   YPRES  315 

on  the  look-out  for  news  of  your  boy,  and  also  because  my 
heart  is  bursting  to  tell  you  of  God's  love  and  protection, 
never  so  manifest  as  during  this  week. 

"  He  has  shielded  me  from  almost  countless  dangers 
with  more  than  the  tender  care  of  an  earthly  mother — what 
I  have  to  say  sounds  in  parts  almost  like  a  fairy  tale — and 
if  He  has  tried  my  endurance,  once  at  least  almost  to  breaking 
point,  it  was  only  to  fill  me  with  joy  at  the  thought  that 
I  '  was  deemed  worthy  to  suffer  (a  little)  for  Him.' 

"  I  shall  give  you  as  simply  as  I  can  the  principal 
events  of  these  exciting  days  as  I  jotted  them  down  in  my 
note-book." 

Before  resuming  the  diary  it  is  necessary  to  remark  that 
after  the  death  of  Fr  Knapp  (3ist  July),  Fr.  Browne  was 
appointed  chaplain  to  the  2nd  Irish  Guards.  Hence  from 
2nd  August  till  his  death  Fr.  Doyle  had  the  four  Battalions 
to  look  after,  as  no  other  priest  had  come  to  the  48th  Brigade. 
A  certain  priest  had  indeed  been  appointed  as  Fr.  Browne's 
successor  by  Fr.  Rawlinson.  But  by  some  error  the  order 
was  brought  to  a  namesake,  who,  on  arriving  at  Poperinghe 
and  discovering  the  mistake,  absolutely  refused  to  have 
anything  to  do  with  the  battle.  This  will  explain  why 
Fr.  Doyle  had  such  hard  work  and  why  he  would  not  allow 
himself  any  rest  or  relief.1  On  i5th  August,  the  day  before 
Fr.  Doyle's  death,  Fr.  Browne  wrote  to  his  brother  (Rev. 
W.  F  Browne,  C.C.)  : 

"  Fr.  Doyle  is  a  marvel.  You  may  talk  of  heroes  and 
saints,  they  are  hardly  in  it  !  I  went  back  the  other  day 
to  see  the  old  Dubs,  as  I  heard  they  were  having,  we'll  say, 
a  taste  of  the  War. 

"  No  one  has  been  yet  appointed  to  my  place,  and 
Fr.  Doyle  has  done  double  work.  So  unpleasant  were  the 
conditions  that  the  men  had  to  be  relieved  frequently. 
Fr.  Doyle  had  no  one  to  relieve  him  and  so  he  stuck  to  the 
mud  and  the  shells,  the  gas  and  the  terror.  Day  after  day 
he  stuck  it  out. 

"  I  met  the  Adjutant  of  one  of  my  two  Battalions,  who 
previously  had  only  known  Fr.  Doyle  by  sight.  His  first 
greeting  to  me  was  : — '  Little  Fr.  Doyle  ' — they  all  call  him 

I. — See  p.  321. 


316  FATHER   WILLIAM   DOYLE,    SJ 

that,  more  in  affection  than  anything  else — '  deserves  the 
V.C.  more  than  any  man  that  ever  wore  it.  We  cannot 
get  him  away  from  the  line  while  the  men  are  there,  he  is 
with  his  own  and  he  is  with  us.  The  men  couldn't  stick  it 
half  so  well  if  he  weren't  there.  If  we  give  him  an  orderly, 
he  sends  the  man  back,  he  wears  no  tin  hat,  and  he  is  always 
so  cheery/  Another  officer,  also  a  Protestant,  said  :  '  Fr. 
Doyle  never  rests.  Night  and  day  he  is  with  us.  He  finds 
a  dying  or  dead  man,  does  all,  comes  back  smiling,  makes 
a  little  cross,  and  goes  out  to  bury  him,  and  then  begins 
all  over  again.' 

"  I  needn't  say,  that  through  all  this,  the  conditions  of 
ground,  and  air  and  discomfort,  surpass  anything  that  I 
ever  dreamt  of  in  the  worst  days  of  the  Somme." 

We  can  now  give  the  last  fragment  of  Fr.  Doyle's  diary. 

jth  August. 

"All  day  I  have  been  busy  hearing  the  men's  confessions, 
and  giving  batch  after  batch  Holy  Communion.  A  con 
solation  surely  to  see  them  crowding  to  the  Sacraments, 
but  a  sad  one  too,  because  I  know  for  many  of  them  it  is 
the  last  Absolution  they  will  ever  receive,  and  the  next  time 
they  meet  our  Blessed  Lord  will  be  when  they  see  Him  face 
to  face  in  Heaven." 

And  here — he  was  writing  a  week  later — Fr.  Doyle 
interrupts  his  narrative  by  a  spontaneous  outburst  of  grief 
for  the  loss  of  those  whom  he  loved  as  '  his  own  children.' 
"  My  poor  brave  boys  !  "  he  exclaims.  "  They  are  lying 
now  out  on  the  battle-field  ;  some  in  a  little  grave  dug  and 
blessed  by  their  chaplain,  who  loves  them  all  as  if  they  were 
his  own  children  ;  others  stiff  and  stark  with  staring  eyes, 
hidden  in  a  shell-hole  where  they  had  crept  to  die  ;  while 
perhaps  in  some  far-off  thatched  cabin  an  anxious  motheV 
sits  listening  for  the  well-known  step  and  voice  which  will 
never  gladden  her  ear  again.  Do  you  wonder  in  spite  of 
the  joy  that  fills  my  heart  that  many  a  time  the  tears  gather 
in  my  eyes,  as  I  think  of  those  who  are  gone  ?  " 

"As  the  men  stand  lined  up  on  Parade,  I  go  from  company 
to  company  giving  a  General  Absolution  which  I  know  is 
a  big  comfort  to  them,  and  then  I  shoulder  my  pack  and 


THE   BATTLE   OF   YPRES  317 

make  for  the  train  which  this  time  is  to  carry  us  part  of 
our  journey.  '  Top  end  for  Blighty,  boys,  bottom  end 
Berlin,'  I  tell  them  as  they  clamber  in,  for  they  like  a  cheery 
word.  '  If  you're  for  Jerryland,  Father,  we're  with  you 
too,'  shouts  one  big  giant,  which  is  greeted  with  a  roar  of 
approval  and  Berlin  wins  the  day  hands  down. 

"  Though  we  are  in  fighting  kit,  there  is  no  small  load 
to  carry :  a  haversack  containing  little  necessary  things, 
and  three  days'  rations  which  consist  of  tinned  corn  beef, 
hard  biscuits,  tea  and  sugar,  with  usually  some  solidified 
methylated  spirit  for  boiling  water  when  a  fire  cannot  be 
lighted  ;  two  full  water-bottles  ;  a  couple  of  gas-helmets 
the  new  one  weighing  nine  pounds,  but  guaranteed  to  keep 
out  the  smell  of  the  Old  Boy  himself  ;  then  a  waterproof 
trench  coat ;  and  in  addition  my  Mass  kit  strapped  on  my 
back  on  the  off  chance  that  some  days  at  least  I  may  be 
able  to  offer  the  Holy  Sacrifice  on  the  spot  where  so  many 
men  have  fallen.  My  orderly  should  carry  this,  but  I  prefer 
to  leave  him  behind  when  we  go  into  action,  to  which  he 
does  not  object.  On  a  roasting  hot  day,  tramping  along 
a  dusty  road  or  scrambling  up  and  down  shell-holes,  the 
extra  weight  tells.  But  then  I  think  of  my  friend  the  hermit, 
and  the  pack  grows  light  and  easy  ! 

"As  I  marched  through  Ypres  at  the  head  of  the  column, 
an  officer  ran  across  the  road  and  stopped  me  :  'Are  you  a 
Catholic  priest  ?  '  he  asked,  '  I  should  like  to  go  to  Con 
fession.'  There  and  then,  by  the  side  of  the  road,  while 
the  men  marched  by,  he  made  his  peace  with  God,  and  went 
away,  let  us  hope,  as  happy  as  I  felt  at  that  moment  It 
was  a  trivial  incident,  but  it  brought  home  vividly  to  me 
what  a  priest  was  and  the  wondrous  power  given  him  by 
God.  All  the  time  we  were  pushing  on  steadily  towards 
our  goal  across  the  battle-field  of  the  previous  week.  Five 
days  almost  continuous  rain  had  made  the  torn  ground 
worse  than  any  ploughed  field,  but  none  seemed  to  care  as 
so  far  not  a  shot  had  fallen  near. 

'  We  were  congratulating  ourselves  on  our  good  luck,  when 
suddenly  the  storm  burst.  Away  along  the  front  trenches 
we  saw  the  S;O.S.  signal  shoot  into  the  air,  two  red  and  two 
green  rockets,  telling  the  artillery  behind  of  an  attack  and 


3i8  FATHER   WILLIAM   DOYLE,   S.J 

calling  for  support.  There  was  little  need  to  send  any  signal 
as  the  enemy's  guns  had  opened  fire  with  a  crash,  and  in  a 
moment  pandemonium,  in  fact  fifty  of  them  were  set  loose. 
I  can  but  describe  the  din  by  asking  you  to  start  together 
fifty  first  class  thunder  storms,  though  even  then  the  swish 
and  scream,  the  deafening  crash  of  the  shells,  would  be 
wanting. 

"  On  we  hurried  in  the  hope  of  reaching  cover  which  was 
close  at  hand,  when  right  before  us  the  enemy  started  to 
put  down  a  heavy  barrage,  literally  a  curtain  of  shells,  to 
prevent  re-inforcements  coming  up.  There  was  no  getting 
through  that  alive  and,  to  make  matters  worse,  the  barrage 
was  creeping  nearer  and  nearer,  only  fifty  yards  away,  while 
shell  fragments  hummed  uncomfortably  close.  Old  shell- 
holes  there  were  in  abundance,  but  every  one  of  them  was 
brim  full  of  water,  and  one  would  only  float  on  top.  Here 
was  a  fix  !  Yet  somehow  I  felt  that  though  the  boat  seemed 
in  a  bad  way,  the  Master  was  watching  even  while  He  seemed 
to  sleep,  and  help  would  surely  come.  In  the  darkness  I 
stumbled  across  a  huge  shell-hole  crater,  recently  made, 
with  no  water.  Into  it  we  rolled  and  lay  on  our  faces,  while 
the  tempest  howled  around  and  angry  shells  hissed  overhead 
and  burst  on  every  side.  For  a  few  moments  I  shivered 
with  fear,  for  we  were  now  right  in  the  middle  of  the  barrage 
and  the  danger  was  very  great,  but  my  courage  came  back 
when  I  remembered  how  easily  He  Who  had  raised  the 
tempest  saved  His  Apostles  from  it,  and  I  never  doubted 
He  would  do  the  same  for  us.  Not  a  man  was  touched, 
though  one  had  his  rifle  smashed  to  bits. 

"  We  reached  Head  Quarters,  a  strong  block  house  made 
of  concrete  and  iron  rails,  a  master-piece  of  German  clever 
ness.  From  time  to  time  all  during  the  night  the  enemy 
gunners  kept  firing  at  our  shelter,  having  the  range  to  a 
nicety.  Scores  exploded  within  a  few  feet  of  it,  shaking  us 
till  our  bones  rattled  ;  a  few  went  smash  against  the  walls 
and  roof,  and  one  burst  at  the  entrance  nearly  blowing  us 
over,  but  doing  no  harm  thanks  to  the  scientific  construction 
of  the  passage.  I  tried  to  get  a  few  winks  of  sleep  on  a  stool, 
there  was  no  room  to  lie  down  with  sixteen  men  in  a 
small  hut.  And  I  came  to  the  conclusion  that  so  far  we 


THE   BATTLE   OF   YPRES  319 

had   not   done   badly   and    there   was   every   promise  of  an 
exciting  time." 

6th   August. 

"  The  following  morning,  though  the  Colonel  and  other 
officers  pressed  me  very  much  to  remain  with  them  on  the 
ground  that  I  would  be  more  comfortable,  I  felt  I  could 
do  better  work  at  the  advanced  dressing-station,  or  rather 
aid-post,  and  went  and  joined  the  doctor.  It  was  a 
providential  step  and  saved  me  from  being  the  victim  of  an 
extraordinary  accident.  The  following  night  a  shell  again 
rushed  into  the  dug-out  severely  burning  some  and  almost 
suffocating  all  the  officers  and  men,  fifteen  in  number,  with 
poisonous  fumes  before  they  made  their  escape.  Had  I  been 
there,  I  should  have  shared  the  same  fate,  so  you  can  imagine 
what  I  felt  as  I  saw  all  my  friends  carried  off  to  hospital, 
possibly  to  suffer  ill  effects  for  life,  while  I  by  the  merest 
chance  was  left  behind  well  and  strong  to  carry  on  God's 
work.  I  am  afraid  you  will  think  me  ungrateful,  but  more 
than  once  I  almost  regretted  my  escape,  so  great  had  been 
the  strain  of  these  past  days  now  happily  over. 

"  For  once  getting  out  of  bed  (save  the  mark)  was  an 
easy,  in  fact,  delightful  task,  for  I  was  stiff  and  sore  from 
my  night's  rest.  My  first  task  was  to  look  round  and  see 
what  were  the  possibilities  for  Mass.  As  all  the  dug-outs 
were  occupied  if  not  destroyed  or  flooded,  I  was  delighted 
to  discover  a  tiny  ammunition  store  which  I  speedily  con 
verted  into  a  chapel,  building  an  altar  with  the  boxes.  The 
fact  that  it  barely  held  myself  did  not  signify  as  I  had  no 
server  and  had  to  be  both  priest  and  acolyte,  and  in  a  way 
I  was  not  sorry  I  could  not  stand  up,  as  I  was  able  for  once 
to  offer  the  Holy  Sacrifice  on  my  knees. 

"  It  is  strange  that  out  here  a  desire  I  have  long  cherished 
should  be  gratified,  viz.  :  to  be  able  to  celebrate  alone, 
taking  as  much  time  as  I  wished  without  inconveniencing 
anyone.  I  read  long  ago  in  the  Acts  of  the  Martyrs  of 
a  captive  priest,  chained  to  the  floor  of  the  Coliseum,  offering 
up  the  Mass  on  the  altar  of  his  own  bare  breast,  but  apart 
from  that,  Mass  that  morning  must  have  been  a  strange 
one  in  the  eyes  of  God's  angels,  and  I  trust  not  unacceptable 
to  Him.  Returning  to  the  dressing-station,  I  refreshed  the 


320  FATHER  WILLIAM   DOYLE,   SJ. 

inner  man  in  preparation  for  a  hard  day's  work.  You  may 
be  curious  to  know  what  an  aid-post  is  like.  Get  out  of 
your  mind  all  ideas  of  a  clean  hospital  ward,  for  our  first 
aid  dressing-station  is  any  place,  as  near  as  possible  to  the 
fighting  line,  which  will  afford  a  little  shelter — a  cellar,  a 
coal  hole,  sometimes  even  a  shell-hole.  Here  the  wounded 
who  have  been  roughly  bandaged  on  the  field  are  brought 
by  the  stretcher  bearers  to  be  dressed  by  the  doctor.  Our 
aid-post  was  a  rough  tin  shed  built  beside  a  concrete  dug-out 
which  we  christened  the  Pig  Sty.  You  could  just  crawl 
in  on  hands  and  knees  to  the  solitary  chamber  which  served 
as  a  dressing  room,  recreation  hall,  sleeping  apartment  and 
anything  else  you  cared  to  use  it  for.  One  could  not  very 
well  sit  up  much  less  stand  in  our  chateau,  but  you  could 
stretch  your  legs  and  get  a  snooze  if  the  German  shells 
and  the  wounded  men  let  you.  On  the  floor  were  some 
wood-shavings,  kept  well  moistened  in  damp  weather  by  a 
steady  drip  from  the  ceiling,  and  which  gave  covert  to  a 
host  of  curious  little  creatures,  all  most  friendly  and 
affectionate.  There  was  room  for  three  but  as  a  rule  we 
slept  six  or  seven  officers  side  by  side.  I  had  the  post  of 
honour  next  the  wall,  which  had  the  double  advantage  of 
keeping  me  cooj.  and  damp,  and  of  offering  a  stout  resistance 
if  anyone  wanted  to  pinch  more  space,  not  an  easy  task, 
you  may  well  conclude. 

"  I  spent  a  good  part  of  the  day,  when  not  occupied  with 
the  wounded,  wandering  round  the  battle-field  with  a  spade 
to  bury  stray  dead.  Though  there  was  not  very  much 
infantry  fighting  owing  to  the  state  of  the  ground,  not  for 
a  moment  during  the  week  did  the  artillery  duel  cease, 
reaching  at  times  a  pitch  of  unimaginable  intensity,  I  have 
been  through  some  hot  stuff  at  Loos,  and  the  Somme  was 
warm  enough  for  most  of  us,  but  neither  of  them  could 
compare  to  the  fierceness  of  the  German  fire  here.  For 
example,  we  once  counted  fifty  shells,  big  chaps  too,  whizzing 
over  our  little  nest  in  sixty  seconds,  not  counting  those  that 
burst  close  by.  In  fact  you  became  so  accustomed  to  it 
all  that  you  ceased  to  bother  about  them,  unless  some  battery 
started  '  strafing  '  your  particular  position  when  you  began 
to  feel  a  keen  personal  interest  in  every  new  comer.  I  have 


THE   BATTLE   OF   YPRES  321 

walked  about  for  hours  at  a  time  getting  through  my  work, 
with  '  crumps  '  of  all  sizes  bursting  in  dozens  on  every  side. 
More  than  once  my  heart  has  nearly  jumped  out  of  my  mouth 
from  sudden  terror,  but  not  once  during  all  these  days  have 
I  had  what  I  could  call  a  narrow  escape,  but  always  a  strange 
confident  feeling  of  trust  and  security  in  the  all  powerful 
protection  of  our  Blessed  Lord.  You  will  see  before  the  end 
that  my  trust  was  not  misplaced.  All  the  same  I  am  not 
foolhardy  nor  do  I  expose  myself  to  danger  unnecessarily, 
the  coward  is  too  strong  in  me  for  that ;  but  when  duty- 
calls  I  know  I  can  count  on  the  help  of  One  Who  has  never 
failed  me  yet." 

jih  August. 

"  No  Mass  this  morning,  thanks,  I  suppose,  to  the  kindly 
attention  of  the  evil  one.  I  reached  my  chapel  of  the  previous 
morning  only  .to  find  that  a  big  9-5  inch  shell  had  landed 
on  the  top  of  it  during  the  day  ;  went  away  feeling  very 
grateful  I  had  not  been  inside  at  the  time,  but  had  to  abandon 
all  thought  of  Mass  as  no  shelter  could  be  found  from  the 
heavy  rain. 

"  The  Battalion  went  out  to-day  for  three  days'  rest,  but 
I  remained  behind.  Fr.  Browne  has  gone  back  to  the  Irish 
Guards.  He  is  a  tremendous  loss,  not  only  to  myself 
personally,  but  to  the  whole  Brigade  where  he  did  magnificent 
work  and  made  a  host  of  friends.  And  so  I  was  left  alone. 
Another  chaplain  was  appointed,  but  for  reasons  best  known 
to  himself  he  did  not  take  over  his  battalion  and  let  them 
go  into  the  fight  alone.  There  was  nothing  for  it  but  to 
remain  on  and  do  his  work,  and  glad  I  was  I  did  so,  for  many 
a  man  went  down  that  night,  the  majority  of  whom  I  was 
able  to  anoint. 

"  Word  reached  me  about  mid-night  that  a  party  of  men 
had  been  caught  by  shell  fire  nearly  a  mile  away.  I  dashed 
off  in  the  darkness,  this  time  hugging  my  helmet  as  the 
enemy  was  firing  gas  shells.  A  moment's  pause  to  absolve 
a  couple  of  dying  men,  and  then  I  reached  the  group  of 
smashed  and  bleeding  bodies,  most  of  them  still  breathing. 
The  first  thing  I  saw  almost  unnerved  me  ;  a  young  soldier 
lying  on  his  back,  his  hands  and  face  a  mass  of  blue 


322  FATHER   WILLIAM   DOYLE,   S.J. 

phosphorus  flame,  smoking  horribly  in  the  darkness.  He 
was  the  first  victim  I  had  seen  of  the  new  gas  the  Germans 
are  using,  a  fresh  horror  in  this  awful  war.  The  poor  lad 
recognized  me,  I  anointed  him  on  a  little  spot  of  unburnt 
flesh,  not  a  little  nervously,  as  the  place  was  reeking  with 
gas,  gave  him  a  drink  which  he  begged  for  so  earnestly, 
and  then  hastened  to  the  others. 

"  Back  again  to  the  aid-post  for  stretchers  and  help  to 
carry  in  the  wounded,  while  all  the  time  the  shells  are  coming 
down  like  hail.  Good  God  !  how  can  any  human  thing 
live  in  this  ?  As  I  hurry  back  I  hear  that  two  men  have 
been  hit  twenty  yards  away.  I  am  with  them  in  a  moment, 
splashing  through  mud  and  water.  A  quick  absolution  and 
the  last  rites  of  the  Church.  A  flash  from  a  gun  shows  me 
that  the  poor  boy  in  my  arms  is  my  own  servant,  or  rather 
one  who  took  the  place  of  my  orderly  while  he  was  away, 
a  wonderfully  good  and  pious  lad. 

"  By  the  time  we  reached  the  first  party,  all  were  dead, 
most  of  them  with  charred  hands  and  faces.  One  man 
with  a  pulverized  leg  was  still  living.  I  saw  him  off  to 
hospital  made  as  comfortable  as  could  be,  but  I  could  not 
help  thinking  of  his  torture  as  the  stretcher  jolted  over  the 
rough  ground  and  up  and  down  the  shell  holes. 

"  Little  rest  that  night,  for  the  Germans  simply  pelted 
us  with  gas  shells  of  every  description,  which,  however 
thanks  to  our  new  helmets,  did  no  harm  " 


8th  August. 

There  is  little  to  record  during  the  next  couple  of  days 
except  the  discovery  of  a  new  cathedral  and  the  happiness 
of  daily  Mass.  This  time  I  was  not  quite  so  well  off,  as  I 
could  not  kneel  upright  and  my  feet  were  in  the  water  which 
helped  to  keep  the  fires  of  devotion  from  growing  too  warm. 
Having  carefully  removed  an  ancient  German  leg,  I  managed 
to  vest  by  sitting  on  the  ground,  a  new  rubric  I  had  to 
introduce  also  at  the  Communion,  as  otherwise  I  could  not 
have  emptied  the  Chalice.  I  feel  that  when  I  get  home 
again  I  shall  be  absolutely  miserable  because  everything 
will  be  so  clean  and  dry  and  comfortable.  Perhaps  some 


THE   BATTLE   OF   YPRES  323 

kind  friend  will  pour  a  bucket  or  two  of  water  over  my  bed 
occasionally  to  keep  me  in  good  spirits. 

"  When  night  fell,  I  made  my  way  up  to  a  part  of  the 
Line  which  could  not  be  approached  in  daylight,  to  bury 
an  officer  and  some  men.  A  couple  of  grimy,  unwashed 
figures  emerged  from  the  bowels  of  the  earth  to  help  me, 
but  first  knelt  down  and  asked  for  Absolution.  They  then 
leisurely  set  to  work  to  fill  in  the  grave.  '  Hurry  up,  boys,' 
I  said,  '  I  don't  want  to  have  to  bury  you  as  well/  for  the 
spot  was  a  hot  one.  They  both  stopped  working  much  to 
my  disgust,  for  I  was  just  longing  to  get  away.  '  Be  gobs, 
Father,'  replied  one,  '  I  haven't  the  divil  a  bit  of  fear  in 
me  now  after  the  holy  Absolution.'  '  Nor  I,'  chimed  in  the 
other,  '  I  am  as  happy  as  a  king.'  The  poor  Padre  who  had 
been  keeping  his  eye  on  a  row  of  '  crumps  '  which  were  coming 
unpleasantly  near  felt  anything  but  happy  ;  however  there 
was  nothing  for  it  but  to  stick  it  out  as  the  men  were  in  a 
pious  mood  ;  and  he  escaped  at  last,  grateful  that  he  was 
not  asked  to  say  the  rosary." 

loth  August. 

"A  sad  morning  as  casualties  were  heavy  and  many  men 
came  in  dreadfully  wounded.  One  man  was  the  bravest  I 
ever  met.  He  was  in  dreadful  agony,  for  both  legs  had  been 
blown  off  at  the  knee  But  never  a  complaint  fell  from  his 
lips,  even  while  they  dressed  his  wounds,  and  he  tried  to 
make  light  of  his  injuries.  '  Thank  God,  Father,'  he  said, 
'  I  am  able  to  stick  it  out  to  the  end.  Is  it  not  ail  for  little 
Belgium  ?  '  The  Extreme  Unction,  as  I  have  noticed  time 
and  again,  eased  his  bodily  pain.  '  I  am  much  better  now 
and  easier,  God  bless  you,'  he  said,  as  I  left  him  to  attend 
a  dying  man.  He  opened  his  eyes  as  I  knelt  beside  him  : 
'Ah  !  Fr.  Doyle,  Fr.  Doyle,'  he  whispered  faintly,  and  then 
motioned  me  to  bend  lower  as  if  he  had  some  message  to 
give.  As  I  did  so,  he  put  his  two  arms  round  my  neck  and 
kissed  me.  It  was  all  the  poor  fellow  could  do  to  show  his 
gratitude  that  he  had  not  been  left  to  die  alone  and  that 
he  would  have  the  consolation  of  receiving  the  Last 
Sacraments  before  he  went  to  God.  Sitting  a  little  way  off 
I  saw  a  hideous  bleeding  object,  a  man  with  his  face  smashed 


324  FATHER  WILLIAM   DOYLE,   SJ. 

by  a  shell,  with  one  if  not  both  eyes  torn  out.  He  raised 
his  head  as  I  spoke.  '  Is  that  the  priest  ?  Thank  God, 
I  am  all  right  now.'  I  took  his  blood-covered  hands  in  mine 
as  I  searched  his  face  for  some  whole  spot  on  which  to  anoint 
him.  I  think  I  know  better  now  why  Pilate  said  '  Behold 
the  Man  '  when  he  showed  our  Lord  to  the  people. 

"  In  the  afternoon,  while  going  my  rounds,  I  was  forced 
to  take  shelter  in  the  dug-out  of  a  young  officer  belonging 
to  another  regiment.  For  nearly  two  hours  I  was  a  prisoner 
and  found  out  he  was  a  Catholic  from  Dublin,  and  had  been 
married  just  a  month.  Was  this  a  chance  visit,  or  did  God 
send  me  there  to  prepare  him  for  death,  for  I  had  not  long 
left  the  spot  when  a  shell  burst  and  killed  him  ?  I  carried 
his  body  out  the  next  day  and  buried  him  in  a  shell  hole, 
and  once  again  I  blessed  that  protecting  Hand  which  had 
shielded  me  from  his  fate. 

"  That  night  we  moved  head  quarters  and  aid-post  to  a 
more  advanced  position,  a  strong  concrete  emplacement,  but 
a  splendid  target  for  the  German  gunners.  For  the  forty- 
eight  hours  we  were  there  they  hammered  us  almost 
constantly  day  and  night  till  I  thought  our  last  hour  had 
come.  There  we  lived  with  a  foot,  sometimes  more,  of  water 
on  the  floor,  pretty  well  soaked  through,  for  it  was  raining 
hard  at  times.  Sleep  was  almost  impossible — fifty  shells  a 
minute  made  some  noise — and  to  venture  out  without 
necessity  was  foolishness.  We  were  well  provided  with 
tinned  food,  and  a  spirit  lamp  for  making  hot  tea,  so  that 
we  were  not  too  badly  off,  and  rather  enjoyed  hearing  the 
German  shells  hopping  off  the  roof  or  bursting  on  the  walls 
of  their  own  strong  fort." 

i ith  August. 

"  Close  beside  us  I  had  found  the  remains  of  a  dug-out 
which  had  been  blown  in  the  previous  day  and  three  men 
killed.  I  made  up  my  mind  to  offer  up  Mass  there  for  the 
repose  of  their  souls.  In  any  case  '  I  did  not  know  a  better 
'ole  to  go  to,'  and  to  this  little  act  of  charity  I  attribute 
the  saving  of  my  life  later  on  in  the  day.  I  had  barely 
fitted  up  my  altar  when  a  couple  of  shells  burst  overhead, 
sending  the  clay  tumbling  down  For  a  moment  I  felt  very 


THE   BATTLE   OF   YPRES  325 

tempted  not  to  continue  as  the  place  was  far  from  safe. 
But  later  I  wa?  glad  I  went  on  for  the  Holy  Souls  certainly 
came  to  my  aid  as  I  did  to  theirs. 

"  I  had  finished  breakfast  and  had  ventured  a  bit  down 
the  trench  to  find  a  spot  to  bury  some  bodies  left  lying  there. 
I  had  reached  a  sheltered  corner,  when  I  heard  the  scream 
of  a  shell  coming  towards  me  rapidly,  and  judging  by  the 
sound,  straight  for  the  spot  where  I  stood.  Instinctively 
I  crouched  down,  and  well  I  did  so,  for  the  shell  whizzed 
past  my  head — I  felt  my  hair  blown  about  by  the  hot  air — 
and  burst  in  front  of  me  with  a  deafening  crash.  It  seemed 
to  me  as  if  a  heavy  wooden  hammer  had  hit  me  on  the  top 
of  the  head,  and  I  reeled  like  a  drunken  man,  my  ears  ringing 
with  the  explosion.  For  a  moment  I  stood  wondering  how 
many  pieces  of  shrapnel  had  hit  me,  or  how  many  legs  and 
arms  I  had  left,  and  then  dashed  through  the  thick  smoke 
to  save  myself  from  being  buried  alive  by  the  shower  of 
falling  clay  which  was  rapidly  covering  me.  I  hardly  know 
how  I  reached  the  dug-out  for  I  was  speechless  and  so  badly 
shaken  that.it  was  only  by  a  tremendous  effort  I  was  able 
to  prevent  myself  from  collapsing  utterly  as  I  had  seen  so 
many  do  from  shell  shock.  Then  a  strange  thing  happened  : 
something  seemed  to  whisper  in  my  ear,  one  of  those  sudden 
thoughts  which  flash  through  the  mind :  '  Did  not  that 
shell  come  from  the  hand  of  God  ?  He  willed  it  should  be 
so.  Is  it  not  a  proof  that  He  can  protect  you  no  matter 
what  the  danger  ?  ' 

"  The  thought  that  it  was  all  God's  doing  acted  like  a 
tonic  ;  my  nerves  calmed  down,  and  shortly  after  I  was 
out  again  to  see  could  I  meet  another  iron  friend.  As  a 
matter  of  fact  I  wanted  to  see  exactly  what  had  happened, 
for  the  report  of  a  high  explosive  shell  is  so  terrific  that  one 
is  apt  to  exaggerate  distances.  An  officer  recently  assured 
me  he  was  only  one  foot  from  a  bursting  shell,  when  in  reality 
he  was  a  good  40  yards  away.  You  may  perhaps  find  it 
hard  to  believe,  as  I  do  myself,  what  I  saw.  I  had  been 
standing  by  a  trellis  work  of  thin  sticks.  By  stretching 
out  my  hand  I  could  touch  the  screen,  and  the  shell  fell 
smashing  the  woodwork.  !  My  escape  last  year  at  Loos  was 
wonderful,  but  then  I  was  some  yards  away,  and  partly 


326  FATHER  WILLIAM  DOYLE,   SJ. 

protected  by  a  bend  in  the  trench.  Here  the  shell  fell,  I 
might  say,  at  my  very  feet ;  there  was  no  bank,  no  protection 
except  the  wall  of  your  good  prayers  and  the  protecting 
arm  of  God. 

"  That  night  we  were  relieved,  or  rather  it  was  early 
morning,  4.30  a.m.,  when  the  last  company  marched  out. 
I  went  with  them  so  that  I  might  leave  no  casualties  behind. 
We  hurried  over  the  open  as  fast  as  we  could,  floundering 
in  the  thick  mud,  tripping  over  wires  in  the  darkness,  and, 
I  hope,  some  of  the  lay  members  cursing  the  German  gunners 
for  disturbing  us  by  an  odd  shot.  We  had  nearly  reached 
the  road,  not  knowing  /it  was  a  marked  spot  when  like  a 
hurricane  a  shower  of  shells  came  smashing  down  upon  us. 
We  were  fairly  caught  and  for  once  I  almost  lost  hope  of 
getting  through  in  safety.  For  five  minutes  or  more  we 
pushed  on  in  desperation  ;  we  could  not  stop  to  take  shelter, 
for  dawn  was  breaking  and  we  should  have  been  seen  by  the 
enemy.  Right  and  left  in  front  and  behind,  some  far  away, 
many  very  close,  the  shells  kept  falling  Crash  !  One  has 
pitched  in  the  middle  of  the  line,  wounding  five  men,  none 
of  them  seriously.  Surely  God  is  good  to  us,  for  it  seems 
impossible  a  single  man  will  escape  unhurt,  and  then  when 
the  end  seemed  at  hand,  our  batteries  opened  fire  with  a 
roar  to  support  an  attack  that  was  beginning  The  German 
guns  ceased  like  magic,  or  turned  their  attention  elsewhere, 
and  we  scrambled  on  to  the  road  and  reached  home  without 
further  loss." 

(7.)  THE  END. 

This  was  the  end  of  Fr.  Doyle's  diary.  There  followed 
just  this  last  message  to  his  Father,  so  pathetic  in  the  light 
of  his  death  two  days  later  :  "I  have  told  you  all  my  escapes, 
dearest  Father,  because  I  think  what  I  have  written  will 
give  you  the  same  confidence  which  I  feel,  that  my  old  arm 
chair  up  in  Heaven  is  not  ready  yet,  and  I  do  not  want  yon 
to  be  uneasy  about  me.  I  am  all  the  better  for  these  couple 
of  days'  rest,  and  am  quite  on  my  fighting  legs  again.  Leave 
will  be  possible  very  shortly,  I  think,  so  I  shall  only  say 
au  revoir  in  view  of  an  early  meeting.  Heaps  of  love  to 


THE   END  327 

every  dear  one.  As  ever,  dearest  Father,  your  loving  son, 
Willie.  14/8/17."  Before  this  letter  had  reached  home,  the 
great  Leave  Day  had  come  for  Willie  Doyle.  He  was  called 
Home.  "  Blessed  are  the  dead?  who  die  in  the  Lord.  From 
henceforth  now,  saith  the  spirit,  that  they  may  rest  from  their 
labours,  for  their  works  follow  them."  (Apoc.  14.  13.) 

The  recital,  which  has  just  been  given,  of  Fr.  Doyle's 
superhuman  exertions  and  hairbreadth  escapes,  has  made 
it  abundantly  clear  that  only  by  some  continuous  miracle 
could  he  hope  to  survive  another  such  advance.  It  came 
next  day,  the  i5th,  when  once  more  the  Irish  troops  were 
moved  up  through  and  beyond  Ypres.  Here  on  the  dawn 
of  Thursday,  i6th  August,  the  front  line  from  St.  Julien 
to  the  Roulers  railway  south  of  Frezenberg  was  held  by 
Irishmen  waiting  for  the  order  to  advance.  Every 
insignificant  rise  in  the  undulating  Flemish  farmlands  in 
front  of  them  was  crowned  by  a  German  post ;  there  were 
several  strong  '  pill-boxes  '  (concrete  blockhouses)  and  in  the 
middle  of  the  line  of  attack  a  spur  (Hill  35)  dominated  every 
approach.  It  was  these  redoubts — especially  Borry  Farm 
Redoubt  with  its  sixty  expert  gunners  and  five  machine- 
guns — which  frustrated  all  attempts  of  the  Irish  infantry. 
Moreover,  no  supporting  waves  came  up  for  no  living  beings 
could  get  through  the  transverse  fire  of  the  German  machine- 
guns.  And  so  when  the  German  counterattack  was  launched 
in  the  afternoon,  the  Rifles,  the  Dublins,  and  the  Inniskillings 
had  to  retire,  taking  with  them  what  wounded  they  could. 
Many  groups  were  surrounded  and  cut  off  or  had  to  fight 
their  way  back  in  the  night.1 

Fr.  Doyle  was  speeding  ail  day  hither  and  thither  over 
the  battlefield  like  an  angel  of  mercy ;  his  words  of  Absolution 
were  the  last  words  heard  on  earth  by  many  an  Irish  lad 
that  day,  and  the  stooping  figure  of  priest  and  father,  seen 
through  blinding  blood,  filled  the  glance  of  many  in 
their  agony.  Perhaps  once  more  some  speechless  youth 
ebbing  out  his  life's  blood,  kissed  his  beloved  padre,  or  by 
a  silent  handshake  bade  farewell  to  the  father  of  his  soul. 
"Ah,  Father  Doyle,  Father  Doyle."  "  Is  that  the  priest  ? 

I. — In  the  fourth  battle  of  Ypres,  from  3ist  July  to  i6th  August,  the  i6th 
Division  lost  230  officers  and  4,370  other  ranks. 


328  FATHER  WILLIAM  DOYLE,   SJ. 

Thank  God,  I  am  all  right  now."  "Ah,  Father  is  that  you  ? 
Thanks  be  to  God  for  His  goodness  in  sending  you  ;  my 
heart  was  sore  to  die  without  the  priest."  .  .  .  All  the 
little  stories  come  back  to  us  as  we  try  to  reconstruct  that 
last  great  day  of  priestly  ministry  and  sacrifice.  We  shall 
never  know  here  below,  for  towards  the  evening  of  that 
heroic  day  Fr.  Doyle  died  a  martyr  of  charity.  The  great 
dream  which  had  haunted  him  for  a  lifetime  had  come  true  ; 
he  shed  his  blood  while  working  for  Christ.  "  Greater  love 
than  this  no  man  hath,  that  a  man  lay  down  his  life  for  his 
friends."  (5.  John  15.  13.)  "  The  good  shepherd  giveth 
his  life  for  his  sheep."  (S.  John  10.  n.) 

Few  authentic  details  can  be  gathered  concerning  that 
day  of  carnage  and  confusion,  especially  as  the  troops  were 
retiring  from  ground  which  was  not  finally  occupied  until 
about  six  weeks  later  after  severe  fighting.  What  little  is 
known  may  be  recounted  from  letters  and  newspaper 
reports.1  Here  are  a  few  tributes  from  war  correspondents  : 

"All  through  the  worst  hours  an  Irish  padre  went  about 
among  the  dead  and  dying  giving  Absolution  to  his  boys. 
Once  he  came  back  to  head  quarters,  but  he  would  not  take 
a  bite  of  food  or  stay,  though  his  friends  urged  him.  He 
went  back  to  the  field  to  minister  to  those  who  were  glad 
to  see  him  bending  over  them  in  their  last  agony.  Four 
men  were  killed  by  shell  fire  as  he  knelt  beside  them,  and  he 

i. — The  best  substantiated  account  is  this.  Fr.  Doyle  had  been  engaged 
from  early  morning  in  the  front  line,  cheering  and  consoling  his  men,  and 
attending  to  the  many  wounded.  Soon  after  3  p.m.  he  made  his  way  back  to 
the  Regimental  Aid  Post  which  was  in  charge  of  a  Corporal  Raitt,  the  doctor 
having  gone  back  to  the  rear  some  hours  before.  Whilst  here  word  came  in 
that  an  officer  of  the  Dublins  had  been  badly  hit,  and  was  lying  out  in  an 
exposed  position.  Fr.  Doyle  at  once  decided  to  go  out  to  him,  and  left  the  Aid 
Post  with  his  runner,  Private  Mclnespie,  and  a  Lieutenant  Grant.  Some 
twenty  minutes'  later,  at  about  a  quarter  to  four,  Mclnespie  staggered  into  the 
Aid  Post  and  fell  down  in  a  state  of  collapse  from  shell  shock.  Corporal  Raitt 
went  to  his  assistance  and  after  considerable  difficulty  managed  to  revive  him. 
His  first  words  on  coming  back  to  consciousness  were:  "Fr.  Doyle  has  been 
killed ! "  Then  bit  by  bit  the  whole  story  was  told.  Fr.  Doyle  had  found  the 
wounded  officer  lying  far  out  in  a  shell  crater.  He  crawled  out  to  him,  absolved 
and  anointed  him,  and  then,  half  dragging,  half  carrying  the  dying  man, 
managed  to  get  him  within  the  line.  Three  officers  came  up  at  this  moment, 
and  Mclnespie  was  sent  for  some  water.  This  he  got  and  was  handing  it  to 
Fr.  Doyle  when  a  shell  burst  in  the  midst  of  the  group,  killing  Fr.  Doyle  and 
the  three  officers  instantaneously,  and  hurling  Mclnespie  violently  to  the 
ground.  Later  in  the  day  some  of  the  Dublins  when  retiring  came  across  the 
bodies  of  all  four.  Recognising  Fr.  Doyle,  they  placed  hint  and  a  Private 
Meehan,  whom  they  were  carrying  back  dead,  behind  a  portion  of  the 
Frezenberg  Redoubt  and  covered  the  bodies  with  sods  and  stones. 


THE   END  329 

was   not   touched — not   touched  until   his   own   turn   came. 
A  shell  burst  close  by,  and  the  padre  fell  dead." 

(Sir  Philip  Gibbs  in  the  Daily  Chronicle  and  the  Daily 
Telegraph  ;  also  in  his  book  From  Bapaume  to  Passchendaele, 
1917,  p.  254.) 

"  The  Orangemen  will  not  forget  a  certain  Roman  Catholic 
chaplain  who  lies  in  a  soldier's  grave  in  that  sinister  plain 
beyond  Ypres.  He  went  forward  and  back  over  the  battle 
field  with  bullets  whining  about  him,  seeking  out  the  dying 
and  kneeling  in  the  mud  beside  them  to  give  them  Absolution, 
walking  with  death  with  a  smile  on  his  face,  watched  by  his 
men  with  reverence  and  a  kind  of  awe  until  a  shell  burst 
near  him  and  he  was  killed.  His  familiar  figure  was  seen 
and  welcomed  by  hundreds  of  Irishmen  who  lay  in  that 
bloody  place  Each  time  he  came  back  across  the  field 
he  was  begged  to  remain  in  comparative  safety.  Smilingly 
he  shook  his  head  and  went  again  into  the  storm.  He  had 
been  with  his  boys  at  Ginchy  and  through  other  times  of 
stress,  and  he  would  not  desert  them  in  their  agony.1  They 
remember  him  as  a  saint — they  speak  his  name  with  tears." 

(Percival  Phillips  in  the  Daily  Express  and  also  the  Morning 
Post,  22nd  August,  1917.) 

"  Many  tales  of  individual  gallantry  are  told  ;  two 
instances  especially  which  should  be  recorded  ;  one  being 
that  of  an  officer  of  the  Royal  Army  Medical  Corps  attached 
to  the  Leinsters,  who  spent  five  hours  in  circumstances  of 
the  greatest  danger  tending  the  wounded,  and  behaving  in 
all  ways  with  consummate  heroism  ;  and  the  other  that  of 
a  Roman  Catholic  chaplain  who  went  up  with  the  men, 
sustained  and  cheered  them  to  the  last,  till  he  was  killed." 

(The  Times,  22nd  August,  1917.) 

The  following  passage  is  from  a  letter  of  General  Hickie 
written  to  a  friend  on  i8th  Nov.;  1917. 

"  Fr.  Doyle  was  one  of  the  best  priests  I  have  ever  met, 
and  one  of  the  bravest  men  who  have  fought  or  worked 
out  here.  He  did  his  duty,  and  more  than  his  duty,  most 
nobly,  and  has  left  a  memory  and  a  name  behind  him  that 

I. — Compare  what  Dom  Bede  Camm  says  of  Fr.  B.  Kavanagh,  C.S.S  R.  : 
"  He  was  warned  not  to  go  where  he  did,  for  the  danger  was  too  great,  but  he 
said,  '  If  my  boys  can  go  there,  so  can  I.'  " — Dublin  Review,  vol.  165,  1919,  p.  62. 


330          .      FATHER  WILLIAM   DOYLE,   SJ. 

will  never  be  forgotten.  On  the  day  of  his  death,  i6th 
August,  he  had  worked  in  the  front  line,  and  even  in  front 
of  that  line,  and  appeared  to  know  no  fatigue — he  never 
knew  fear.  He  was  killed  by  a  shell  towards  the  close  of 
the  day,  and  was  buried  on  the  Frezenberg  Ridge.  .  .  . 
He  was  recommended  for  the  Victoria  Cross  by  his 
Commanding  Officer,  by  his  Brigadier,  and  by  myself. 
Superior  Authority,  however,  has  not  granted  it,  and  as  no 
other  posthumous  reward  is  given,  his  name  will,  I  believe, 
be  mentioned  in  the  Commander-in- Chief 's  Despatch.  .  .  . 
I  can  say  without  boasting  that  this  is  a  Division  of  brave 
men  ;  and  even  among  these,  Fr.  Doyle  stood  out  " 

Though  Fr  Doyle  cared  nothing  for  human  decoration? — 
it  was  another  Commander-in-Chief  under  Whom  he  served — 
it  seems  right  to  chronicle  this  judgement  of  others  and  to 
record  the  fact  that  he  was  recommended  for  the  D.S.O. 
at  Wytschaete  and  the  V.C.  at  Frezenberg.  However  the 
triple  disqualification  of  being  an  Irishman,  a  Catholic  and 
a  Jesuit,  proved  insuperable.1 

On  I5th  December,  1917,  General  Hickie,  having  discovered 
Mr.  Doyle's  address,  paid  another  tribute  :  "I  could  not 
say  too  much  about  your  son,"  he  wrote.  "  He  was  loved 
and  reverenced  by  us  all ;  his  gallantry,  self-sacrifice,  and 
devotion  to  duty  were  all  so  well  known  and  recognized. 
I  think  that  his  was  the  most  wonderful  character  that  I 
have  ever  known." 

"  Strong  Point  13  and  the  little  dug-out  of  the  brave  padre 
rise  before  me  as  I  write,"  says  an  Irish  officer  in  the  Catholic 
News  (i5th  September,  1917.)  "  I  recall  the  early  Mass 
when  our  battalion  was  in  reserve.  Often  have  I  knelt  at 
the  impromptu  altar  serving  that  Mass  for  the  padre  in  the 
upper  barn,  hail,  rain,  and  snow  blowing  in  gusts  through 
the  shell-torn  roof.  He  knew  no  fear.  As  company  officers, 
how  many  times  have  we  accompanied  him  through  the 
front  line  system  to  speak  a  word  to  the  men.  Well  do  we 


I.— A  soldier,  knowing  what  Father  Knapp  and  Father  Gwynn  had  done,  once 
asked  his  chaplain  :  "  Aren't  our  priests,  Father,  forbidden  to  take  the  V.C.  ?  ! " 
Even  before  the  Frezenberg  action  Fr.  Doyle  was_  reputed  by  the  officers  to  have 
earned  the  V.C.  Thus  Lieut.  Galvin,  writing  home 'on  I4th  August,  1917,  says  :  "  If 
ever  a  man  earned  the  V.C.  in  this  war,  it  is  Father  Doyle.  He  i:>  simply  splendid. 
He  comes  up  every  night  under  heavy  shell-fire,  burying  the  dead  and  binding  the 
wounded  and  cheering  the  men.  I  wish  to  heavens  we  had  a  few  doctors  like  him." 


THE   END  331 

remember  when  at  long  last  we  went  back  for  rest  and 
training,  how  our  beloved  padre  did  the  long  three  days' 
march  at  the  head  of  the  battalion. 

"  Which  of  the  men  do  not  recall  with  a  tear  and  a  smile 
how  he  went  '  over  the  top  '  at  Wytschaete  ?  He  lived  with 
us  in  our  newly- won  position,  and  endured  our  hardships 
with  unfailing  cheerfulness.  In  billets  he  was  an  ever 
welcome  visitor  to  the  companies,  and  our  only  trouble  was 
that  he  could  not  always  live  with  whatever  company  he 
might  be  visiting. 

"  Ypres  sounded  the  knell.  Recommended  for  the  D.S.O. 
for  Wytschaete,  he  did  wonderful  work  at  Ypres,  and  was 
recommended  for  the  V.C  Many  a  dying  soldier  on  that 
bloody  field  has  flashed  a  last  look  of  loving  recognition  as 
our  brave  padre  rushed  to  hi?  aid,  braving  the  fearful  barrage 
and  whistling  machine-gun  bullets,  to  give  his  boy  a  last 
few  words  of  hope." 

"  He  was  one  of  the  finest  fellows  I  ever  met,"  wrote 
Lt.-Col.  H.  R.  Stirke  (commanding  the  8th  Dublins)  on  I3th 
September,  1917,  "  utterly  fearless,  always  with  a  cheery 
word  on  his  lips,  and  ever  ready  to  go  out  and  attend  the 
wounded  and  dying  under  the  heaviest  fire.  He  was 
genuinely  loved  by  everyone,  and  thoroughly  deserved  the 
unstinted  praise  he  got  from  all  ranks  for  his  rare  pluck 
and  devotion  to  duty," 

In  its  own  way  the  following  generous  appreciation  by  a 
Belfast  Orangeman  is  rather  unique.  It  was  published  in 
the  Glasgow  Weekly  News  of  ist  September,  1917  : 

"  Fr.  Doyle  was  a  good  deal  among  us.  We  couldn't 
possibly  agree  with  his  religious  opinion,  but  we  simply 
worshipped  him  for  other  things.  He  didn't  know  the 
meaning  of  fear,  and  he  didn't  know  what  bigotry  was.  He 
was  as  ready  to  risk  his  life  to  take  a  drop  of  water  to 
a  wounded  Ulsterman  as  to  assist  men  of  his  own  faith  and 
regiment.  If  he  risked  his  life  in  looking  after  Ulster 
Protestant  soldiers  once,  he  did  it  a  hundred  times  in  the 
last  few  days.  .  .  .  The  Ulstermen  felt  his  loss  more 
keenly  than  anybody,  and  none  were  readier  to  show  their 
marks  of  respect  to  the  dead  hero  priest  than  were  our  Ulster 
Presbyterians.  Fr.  Doyle  was  a  true  Christian  in  every 


332  FATHER  WILLIAM   DOYLE.    S.J. 

sense  of  the  word,  and  a  credit  to  any  religious  faith.  He 
never  tried  to  get  things  easy.  He  was  always  sharing  the 
risks  of  the  men,  and  had  to  be  kept  in  restraint  by  the  staff 
for  his  own  protection.  Many  a  time  have  I  seen  him  walk 
beside  a  stretcher  trying  to  console  a  wounded  man  with 
bullets  flying  around  him  and  shells  bursting  every 
few  yards." 

"He  never  tried  to  get  things  easy"— words  conveying 
a  truth  deeper  than  this  Ulster  soldier  could  realise  !  May 
we  not  reverently  recall  S.  Paul's  sentence  :  "  Having  joy 
set  before  Him,  He  endured  the  cross  "  ?  (Hebr.  12.  2.) 

A  similar  tribute  was  paid  by  Sergeant  T.  Flynn,  Dublin 
Fusiliers,  in  a  letter  written  home  and  published  in  the 
Irish  News,  2Qth  August,  1917  : 

"  We  had  the  misfortune  to  lose  our  chaplain,  Fr.  Doyle, 
the  other  day.  He  was  a  real  saint  and  would  never  leave 
his  men,  and  it  was  really  marvellous  to  see  him  burying 
dead  soldiers  under  terrible  shell  fire.  He  did  not  know 
what  fear  was,  and  everybody  in  the  battalion,  Catholic 
and  Protestant  alike,  idolised  him.  I  went  to  Confession 
to  him  and  received  Holy  Communion  from  him  a  day  or 
two  before  he  was  killed,  and  I  feel  terribly  sorry  after  him. 

"  He  loved  the  men  and  spent  every  hour  of  his  time 
looking  after  them,  and  when  we  were  having  a  fairly  hot 
time  in  the  trenches  he  would  bring  us  up  boxes  of  cigarettes 
and  cheer  us  up.  The  men  would  do  anything  he  asked 
them,  and  I  am  sure  we  will  never  get  another  padre  like 
him.  Everybody  says  that  he  has  earned  the  V.C.  many 
times  over,  and  I  can  vouch  for  it  myself  from  what  I  have 
seen  him  do  many  a  time.  He  was  asked  not  to  go  into 
action  with  the  battalion,  but  he  would  not  stop  behind, 
and  I  am  confident  that  no  braver  or  holier  man  ever  fell 
in  battle  than  he." 

An  even  more  convincing  testimony  was  borne  by  a  Fusilier 
who  happened  to  be  home  in  Dublin  on  leave  at  the  time 
of  Fr.  Doyle's  death.  Meeting  a  friend  who  told  him  the 
news,  he  kept  repeating  incredulously  :  "  He's  not  dead. 
He  couldn't  be  killed  !  "  When  at  last  he  was  shown  a 
paper  describing  the  padre's  death,  the  poor  fellow  knelt 
down  on  the  pavement  and  began  to  pray.  Then  to  the 
crowd  which  gathered  round  him  he  recounted  how,  when 


THE   END  333 

he  was  lying  wounded  in  an  exposed  position  and  expecting 
every  moment  to  be  killed  by  a  shell,  Fr.  Doyle  had  crept 
out  to  him  and  carried  him  to  a  place  of  safety.1 

The  good  sisters  of  St.  Anthony's  Institute,  Locre,  who 
had  always  been  so  kind  to  Fr.  Doyle,  were  anxious  to  have 
his  remains,  not  realising  the  circumstances  of  his  death. 
The  Superioress  wrote  to  Fr.  Browne  a  touching  little  note 
on  2ist  August  : 

"  What  very  sad  news  I  have  received  !  Our  good  brave 
holy  Fr.  Doyle  has  been  killed  !  Compassionate  Lord  Jesus 
give  him  eternal  rest  !  Rev.  Fr  Browne  will  accept  my 
condolence,  my  feelings  of  sympathy  in  the  great  loss  of 
our  good  Fr.  Doyle,  your  confrere.  Notre  petit  saint,  he 
has  now  received  his  recompense  for  his  holy  life,  his  great 
love  for  God  and  neighbour.  Oh  !  he  was  so  much  loved 
by  everybody  and  we  shall  never  forget  him.  We  are  all 
very  glad  to  have  had  him  with  us  in  the  convent  and  to 
have  made  his  life  as  comfortable  as  possible.  Were  it  not 
possible  Rev.  Fr.  to  bring  his  holy  body  to  the  convent  ? 
It  were  a  great  honour  to  us  to  have  it." 

Fr.  Browne  himself,  who  had  been  with  Fr  Doyle  in 
Clongowes  and  Belvedere,  who  had,  above  all,  been  so- 
intimately  associated  with  him  in  their  joint  mission  to  the 
48th  Brigade,  expressed  his  grief  and  his  esteem  in  a  letter, 
written  on  20th  August,  from  which  a  passage  may  be 
-quoted  : 

"All  during  these  last  months  he  was  my  greatest  help, 
and  to  his  saintly  advice,  and  still  more  to  his  saintly  example, 
I  owe  everything  I  felt  and  did.  With  him,  as  with  others 
of  us,  his  bravery  was  no  mere  physical  show-off.  He  was 
afraid  and  felt  fear  deeply,  how  deeply  few  can  realise.  And 
yet  the  last  word  said  of  him  to  me  by  the  Adjutant  of  the 
Royal  Irish  Rifles  in  answer  to  my  question,  '  I  hope  you 
are  taking  care  of  Fr.  Doyle  ?  ',  was,  '  He  is  as  fond  of  the 
shells  as  ever.'  His  one  idea  was  to  do  God's  work  with  the 
men,  to  make  them  saints.  How  he  worked  and  how  he 

I. — After  Fr.  Doyle's  death  some  of  the  men  of  the  8th  Dublins  expressed  their 
appreciation  in  verses  whose  untutored  genuineness  will  excuse  all  literary  short 
comings.  The  first  stanza  runs  thus  : 

He  is  gone  from  amongst  us,  may  his  soul  rest  above, 
The  pride  of  our  regiment  whom  every  man  loved, 
His  life's  work  is  o'er,  he  has  finished  his  toil, 
So  may  God  rest  the  soul  of  our  brave  Father  Doyle. 


334  FATHER   WILLIAM   DOYLE,   S  J. 

prayed  for  this  !  Fine  weather  and  foul  he  was  always 
thinking  of  them  and  what  he  could  do  for  them.  In  the 
cold  winter  he  would  not  use  the  stove  I  bought  for  our 
dug-out.  He  scoffed  at  the  idea  as  making  it  '  stuffy  '- 
and  that  when  the  thermometer  was  fifteen  to  twenty  degrees 
below  zero,  the  coldest  ever  known  in  living  memory  here. 
And  how  he  loathed  it  all,  the  life  and  everything  it  implied  ! 
And  yet  nobody  suspected  it.  God's  Will  was  his  law.  And 
to  all  who  remonstrated,  '  Must  I  not  be  about  the  Lord's 
business  ?  '  was  his  laughing  answer  in  act  and  deed  and 
not  merely  in  word.  May  he  rest  in  peace — it  seems  super 
fluous  to  pray  for  him." 

There  once  more  we  have  Fr.  Doyle's  unmistakable 
portrait,  those  characteristic  traits  familiar  now  to  us  who 
in  these  pages  have  read  his  inner  life  :  the  jest -concealed 
cross,  the  unsuspected  loathing,  the  fear  so  pleasantly  dis 
guised,  the  selfless  work  and  incessant  prayer,  the  loving 
trustfulness  in  God's  Will.  And  as  we  come  to  the  close 
of  this  life-story,  all  its  incidents  are  gathered  up  in  memory 
to  blend  into  a  final  cadence  :  the  novice's  blood-sealed 
covenant,  the  consuming  love  and  zeal,  the  hidden  reparation, 
the  vigils  and  scourgings,  the  pond  at  Rathfarnham,  the 
nettles  at  Delgany,  the  mud  and  blood  of  West  Flanders 
and  the  Pas  de  Calais.  Nothing  befitted  such  a  life  like 
the  end  of  it. 

'  Did  you  not  know  that  I  must  be  about  my  Father's 
business  ?  '  he  would  have  gently  asked  us  had  we,  prudent 
ones,  expostulated  with  him  that  day  for  being  foolhardy. 
His  Father's  business  :  not  bloodshed  and  hate  and  strife, 
but  mercy  and  brotherhood  and  reconciliation.  He  might, 
of  course,  have  stayed  behind  in  Ypres  or  St.  Jean  ;  he 
could,  had  he  wished,  have  kept  out  of  danger.  Perchance 
there  were  some  who  said,  '  He  saved  others,  himself  he 
cannot  save.'  They  were  right.  '  For  whoever  wishes  to 
save  his  life  will  lose  it,  and  whoever  for  My  sake,  loses  his 
life,  will  save  it.  What  does  it  avail  a  man  if,  after  gaining 
the  whole  world,  he  has  lost  or  forfeited  himself  ?  '  '  For 
My  sake  ' — '  I  tell  you,  as  often  as  you  did  it  for  one  of  these 
My  brothers,  however  lowly,  you  did  it  for  Me.'  Beyond 
and  besides  the  great  legion  of  faithful  ordinary  workers, 


THE  END.  335 

there  is  need  of  a  handful  of  heroes,  men  who  save  others 
because  they  cannot  save  themselves.  Nicely  calculated 
prudence  could  not  survive  without  some  of  the  foolishness 
of  the  Cross.  The  death  of  a  hero  or  a  martyr  is  a  higher 
achievement  than  mere  continuance  of  physical  life. 

'  Lord,  if  it  be  Thou,'  cried  impetuous  Peter,  '  bid  me 
come  to  Thee  upon  the  waters .'  And  Christ  said  '  Come  ' 
to  foolish  Peter,  while  the  prudent  apostles  remained  in  the 
boat.  Surely,  as  Fr.  Doyle  on  that  August  morning  looked 
out  upon  those  undulating  Flemish  fields  where  shell-barrage 
and  bullet-blasts  laid  low  the  advancing  waves  of  brave 
men,  surely  he  heard  the  Master's  voice  bidding  him  come 
to  Him  upon  the  waters.  And  he  came  ;  with  his  great 
hearted  faith  he  never  doubted.  "  I  am  not  foolhardy  nor 
do  I  expose  myself  to  danger  unnecessarily,  the  coward  is 
too  strong  in  me  for  that ;  but  wiben  duty  calls  I  know  I 
can  count  on  the  help  of  One  who  has  never  failed  me  yet." 
How  could  he  resist  ?  Out  yonder,  in  Verlorenhoek  and 
Frezenberg  and  along  the  Hannebeek  stream,  the  smashed 
and  bleeding  bodies  of  his  poor  fellows  were  lying.  .  .  . 
"  My  poor  brave  boys  !  They  are.  lying  now  out  on  the 
battle-field  :  some  in  a  little  grave  dug  and  blessed  by  their 
chaplain  who  loves  them  all  as  if  they  were  his  own  children  ; 
others  stiff  and  stark  with  staring  eyes,  hidden  in  a  shell- 
hole  where  they  had  crept  to  die  ;  while  perhaps  in  some 
far-off  thatched  cabin  an  anxious  mother  sits  listening  for 
the  well-known  step  and  voice  which  will  never  gladden 
her  ear  again."  Having  loved  his  '  poor  brave  boys  '  in 
this  world  and  eased  their  passage  to  the  next,  he  loved 
them  to  the  end.  He  did  not  desert  them  in  their  day  of 
defeat  without  dishonour.  And  so,  somewhere  near  the 
Cross  Roads  of  Frezenberg,  where  he  lies  buried  with  them, 
the  'chaplain  and  men  of  the  48th  Brigade  are  waiting 
together  for  the  great  Reveille. 


336  FATHER  WILLIAM   DOYLE,   SJ. 


APPENDIX 

• 

SOME   FURTHER   LETTERS  OF  FATHER  DOYLE 

SINCE  the  issue  of  the  first  edition  of  this  book  some 
further  personal  letters  of  Fr.  Doyle  have  come  to 
light.  They  are  published  here  because  they  have  a 
valuable  biographical  interest.  The  intimate  records  which 
have  been  utilised  in  the  previous  pages  present  us  with 
one  side  of  his  character,  a  side  which  was  unknown  even 
to  those  who  lived  with  him.  This  rather  unexpected 
revelation  must  not  be  allowed  to  obscure  his  intense 
humanness  and  natural  gaiety  of  disposition.  These  few 
letters  which  survive  will  show  us  that  even  as  a  novice 
he  had  a  fund  of  humour  and  an  almost  irresistible  twitching 
to  play  pranks  ;  his  letters  from  the  Front  have  already 
demonstrated  that  he  retained  this  jocose  buoyancy  to  the 
very  end.  The  man  who  wrestled  with  aspirations  and 
plunged  into  austerities  could  always  crack  a  joke  and  enjoy 
a  hearty  laugh.  If  the  Diary  of  his  Long  Retreat  conjures 
up  the  vision  of  a  sour-visaged,  prudish,  would-be  saint,  the 
error  will  be  quickly  dispelled  by  reading  the  con 
temporaneous  letters  here  printed.  To  which  may  be  added 
this  testimony  of  one  who  lived  long  with  Fr.  Doyle  :  "  I 
found  the  Life  very  interesting  and  very  wonderful.  Certainly 
I  have  come  across  no  record  of  austerities  practised  on 
such  a  scale  in  recent  times.  In  his  early  life,  until 
Ordination,  I  knew  Fr.  Doyle  very  well  indeed.  We  were 
together  for  two  years  at  Stony  hurst,  and  I  was  thrown 
very  much  in  his  company.  He  was  always  a  very  reserved 
man  ;  it  was  impossible  to  know  him  ;  he  never  let  you 
into  his  secrets,  hardly  ever,  I  think,  consulted  you  about 
anything.  It  was  impossible  to  be  really  intimate  with 
him,  as  one  always  felt  that  he  would  not  take  you  into  his 
confidence.  This  explains,  I  think,  the  fact  that  people 


APPENDIX  337 

had  no  conception  of  the  life  he  led,  which  would  never 
have  been  known  had  not  his  notes  been  discovered.  In 
his  early  life  he  gave  no  indication  of  the  sanctity  he  after 
wards  attained.  He  was  always,  of  course,  very  good  ;  but 
he  was  better  known  for  his  jokes  and  freaks  than  for  piety. 
He  was  always,  however,  very  determined ;  and  if  he  set 
his  mind  on  anything,  nothing  would  deter  him  from  carrying 
it  through.  When  then,  later  on,  he  set  himself  to  become 
a  saint,  it  is  not  surprising  that  he  overcame  his  own 
inclinations  as  he  had  overcome  all  other  obstacles."  For 
those  who  lived  in  close  association  with  Fr.  Doyle  this 
estimate,  being  obvious,  need  not  be  reproduced.  But  for 
such  as  have  come  to  know  Fr.  Doyle  only  through 
the  medium  of  these  printed  pages,  it  is  both  helpful 
and  consoling  to  emphasise  the  human  elements  of  his 
character.  It  is  also  desirable  in  the  interests  of  biographical 
accuracy.  Hence  the  publication  of  these  few  letters  which 
in  themselves  may  seem  unimportant  and  ordinary. 


I. — LETTER  TO  HIS  SISTER  FROM  THE  NOVICESHIP. 
Tullabeg,  Christmas,   1891. 

I  am  sure  you  must  have  come  to  the  conclusion  that 
your  wild  scamp  of  a  brother  had  gone  the  way  of  all  flesh, 
seeing  that  not  so  much  as  a  postage  stamp  has  come  from 
him  for  ages  !  Perhaps  you  will  forgive  my  long  neglect 
when  I  tell  you  that  since  I  left  Ratcliffe  I  hardly  know 
whether  I  have  been  on  my  head  or  my  heels  half  the  time. 
It  is  only  now  I  am  beginning  to  realise  all  that  has  happened 
since  tKen. 

It  may  interest  you  to  know  what  I  have  been  doing 
since  I  left  my  Alma  Mater.  I  came  home  about  the  middle 
of  July  with  the  intention  of  entering  Clonliffe  ;  and  what 
is  the  strange  part  of  the  whole  business  is  that  just  before 
I  left  Ratcliffe,  I  told  Fr.  Davis,  our  Spiritual  Director, 
that  I  would  as  soon  shoot  myself  as  enter  a  religious  order  f 
But  man  proposes  and  God  disposes ;  so  it  was  in  my  case. 


338  FATHER   WILLIAM   DOYLE,   S.J. 

I  came  down  here  to  see  Charlie  about  the  middle  of  August 
twelve  months,  and  spent  a  few  days  with  him.  But  I 
uttered  a  fervent  Deo  Gratias  when  I  found  myself  on  my 
way  home,  thanking  my  stars  that  I  had  not  the  honour 
of  putting  N.S.J.  after  my  name.  Then  came  a  spell  of 
four  months'  idleness  at  home  during  which  someone  was 
praying  hard  for  a  brother  of  his,  and  not  in  vain,  for  on 
Christmas  Day,  just  a  year  next  Friday,  grace  had  done 
its  work  and  the  ranks  of  the  black-robed  Fathers  were 
swelled  by  a  saintly  aspirant  to  perfection  !  Soon  after 
making  up  my  mind  to  enter  the  Society,  I  applied  to  the 
Provincial  for  admission,  which  he  readily  granted — and  no 
wonder,  seeing  the  fine  fish  he  had  hooked  ! 

I  arrived  off  the  coast  of  Tullabeg  on  March  3ist,  and 
was  immediately  seized  upon  by  Charlie  and  initiated  into 
the  mysteries  and  black  magic  of  Jesuit  life. 

Perhaps  you  would  like  to  know  how  things  are  going 
with  me  here.  Well,  I  am  as  happy  as  the  day  is  long, 
though  at  times,  I  confess,  I  find  it  hard  to  keep  from  turning 
somersaults,  jumping  out  of  the  window,  coming  downstairs 
head  first,  or  from  some  other  mad  freak  of  the  kind. 
I  often  think  that  if  there  was  any  madness  running  in  the 
family,  it  found  a  resting-place  in  me  !  I  suppose  you 
heard  that  I  have  been  through  the  Long  Retreat,  as  it  is 
called,  the  retreat  of  thirty  days,  which  every  Jesuit  novice 
has  to  make.  It  was  a  wonderful  time.  I  do  not  think 
that  I  ever  spent  such  a  happy  time  in  all  my  life. 


II. — LETTER  TO  HIS  MOTHER  FROM  THE  NOVICESHIP. 
Tullabeg,  Christmas,-  1891. 

The  time  down  here  is  most  extraordinary  !  They  have 
only  twenty  minutes  to  the  hour  and  about  six  or  seven 
of  these  are  called  a  day — at  least  that  is  the  conclusion 
I  have  come  to.  Well,  having  discovered  that  Christmas  is 
at  hand,  I  also  discovered  (and  I  am  very  sorry  I  did)  that 
countless  letters  have  to  be  written.  The  very  first  is  going 


APPENDIX  339 

to  be  to  your  own  loved  self  to  wish  you  the  old  wish  that 
is  ever  new  :  A  merry  Christmas  and  a  happy  New  Year. 

At  this  point  an  animated  discussion  took  place  between 
the  writer  and  the  builders  of  the  Crib  as  to  which  of  the 
two  animals  found  among  the  Crib  figures  was  the  donkey 
and  which  the  ox.  "  O(a)x  them,"  said  I ;  while  some  one 
suggested  that  if  they  walked  away,  the  ass  would  follow, 
as  birds  of  a  feather  flock  together.  Eventually  the 
unfortunate  ass  was  ordered  to  do  duty  as  one  of  the  kings, 
and  by  splitting  the  ox  in  two,  a  capital  cow  was  made  out 
of  one  half,  while  the  other  half  served  as  the  donkey.  Such 
are  the  advantages  of  holy  poverty ! 

As  you  see  we  contrive  to  get  a  great  deal  of  fun  out  of 
simple  things,  and  since  there  are  thirty  young  scamps  like 
myself  down  here,  life  manages  to  be  fairly  lively.  Up  to 
this  the  weather  has  been  very  mild,  but  a  touch  of  frost 
has  come  at  last  and  I  expect  we  shall  have  skating  soon. 

And  now  my  time  (a  precious  thing  here)  is  up,  and  I 
must  stop  if  I  am  to  get  this  off  to  you  for  to-morrow.  I  am 
very  well  and  very  happj^,  and  that  is  what  you  want  to 
know  most.  Is  it  not,  dearest  Mother  ? 


III. — LETTER  TO  HIS  SISTER  FROM  CLONGOWES. 
8th  April,   1902. 

I  really  intended  to  send  you  my  Easter  greetings  in  good 
time.  But  with  one  thing  or  another  I  found  myself  in  Holy 
Week  almost  before  I  well  realised  that  Lent  had  begun. 
And  with  Holy  Week  came  a  multiplicity  of  duties  which 
left  little  spare  time  ;  and  then  the  Easter  vacation,  vacation 
at  least  for  the  boys,  but  not  vacation  for  us  poor  prefects, 
ior  we  had  to  be  on  duty  all  day.  Now  however  that  I 
am  a  bit  free,  I  wish  you  every  happiness  and  blessing,  with 
abundance  of  grace  to  make  you  all  that  our  dear  Lord 
wishes  you  to  be.  May  you  always  be  faithful  to  His  call. 

I  was  ever  so  glad  to  learn  that  you  are  keeping  well  and 
strong.  I  have  seldom  felt  better,  thank  God ;  and  the 


340  FATHER  WILLIAM  DOYLE,   SJ. 

best  proof  of  this  is  that  I  am  able  to  get  through  my  day's 
work — and  it  is  not  always  a  light  one — as  well  as  any  man. 
I  cannot  tell  you  how  grateful  I  am  to  you  for  your  prayers 
for  myself  and  my  boys,  and  also  for  your  promise  to 
continue  the  same.  Believe  me,  you  are  doing  a  real 
apostolic  work  in  praying  for  these  dear  little  children. 
I  could  tell  you  things  that  have  happened  which  would 
show  you  that  your  good  prayers  and  those  of  others  have 
not  been  thrown  away.  I  have  many  an  anxious  hour  to 
go  through  and  many  difficulties  to  face  ;  but  the  thought 
that  good  souls  are  interceding  on  my  behalf  makes  the 
burden  light. 

Now  for  a  bit  of  good  news.  We  are  to  go  down  south 
this  summer  fcr  our  vacation.  .  .  .  About  two  months 
more  and  you  may  expect  to  see  me.  Till  then  pray  hard 
for  your  wild  scamp  of  a  brother  who  is  just  as  anxious  as 
yourself  to  make  some  little  progress  in  the  spiritual  life. 


IV. — LETTER  TO  HIS  SISTER  FROM  MILLTOWN  PARK. 
Morning  of  his  Ordination,  28th  July,  1907. 

I  know  that  you  will  be  glad  to  receive  a  few  lines  from 
the  hands  which  a  few  hours  ago  have  been  consecrated 
with  the  holy  oil.  Thank  God  a  thousand  thousand  times, 
I  can  say  at  long  last,  I  am  a  priest,  even  though  I  be  so 
unworthy  of  all  that  holy  name  implies.  How  can  I  tell 
you  all  that  my  heart  feels  at  this  moment  ?  It  is  full  to 
overflowing  with  joy  and  peace  and  gratitude  to  the  good 
God  for  all  that  He  has  done  for  me,  and  with  heartfelt 
thankfulness  to  the  dear  old  Missionary  for  all  her  prayers. 
.  .  .  I  say  my  first  Mass  to-morrow  at  nine  at  Hampton 
for  the  dear  Parents,  the  second  (also  at  nine)  at  Terenure  will 
be  for  you.  .  .  .  Thank  you  for  all  you  have  done  for 
me  ;  but  above  all  thank  the  dear  Sacred  Heart  for  this 
crowning  grace  imparted  to  your  little  brother  who  loves 
you  so  dearly. 


APPENDIX  34i 

V. — LETTER  TO  HIS   FATHER  FROM  THE  TERTIANSHIP. 
Tronchiennes,   i4th  November,    1907. 

Lazarus  is  risen  !  But  by  mistake  they  left  him  in  the 
tomb  thirty-three  instead  of  the  scriptural  three  days  ;  and 
poor  Lazarus  is  jolly  glad  to  get  out  and  breathe  again  ! 
We  came  out  of  retreat  yesterday,  having  commenced  on 
the  afternoon  of  Oct.  gth.  After  each  eighth  day  we  were 
given  a  walk  in  the  afternoon  for  some  hours,  but  with  the 
retreat  order  of  time  in  the  morning  and  evening.  These 
three  days,  however,  did  not  count  as  part  of  the  thirty 
days'  retreat.  I  have  nearly  forgotten  how  to  talk  or  write 
to  you  so  you  must  excuse  all  mistakes.  As  I  wrote  to 
Fr.  Charles,  I  have  been  simply  amazed  at  the  good  form 
I  have  been  in  all  during  this  trying  time,  and  now  at  the 
end  I  am  wonderfully  fresh  and  fit.  Many  of  the  fathers 
were  not  able  to  go  through  all  the  exercises  ;  but  I  missed 
nothing,  not  even  the  hour's  meditation  at  midnight.  That 
is  perhaps  the  worst  thing  in  the  whole  retreat.  You  go 
to  bed  as  usual  at  nine,  and  then  just  as  you  are  in  the  middle 
of  your  best  dream,  a  wretcl\,  a  perfect  villain  you  think 
him,  puts  his  head  into  your  room  just  as  all  the  clocks  of 
Ghent  are  booming  twelve  and  says  :  Benedicamus  Domino 
(Let  us  bless  the  Lord).  By  all  means,  you  say,  but  would 
it  not  do  to  bless  Him  between  the  blankets  ?  The  Psalmist 
says,  Let  them  rejoice  in  their  beds  !  You  feel  it  is  rather 
too  much  of  a  good  joke,  but  you  remark  this  pleasure  only 
comes  once  in  a  lifetime ;  and  so  you  tumble  out  on  the 
cold  floor  (my  carpet  must  have  gone  off  for  spring  cleaning) 
and  jump  into  your  togs  as  quickly  as  you  can,  for  the 
midnight  air  of  Belgium  has  a  sting  in  it.  However  the 
hour  passes  quickly,  and  then  one  dive  for  the  blanket,  though 
I  felt  much  more  inclined  for  breakfast.  Four  o'clock  came 
round  very  quickly — I  really  think  there  is  something  amiss 
with  the  clocks  here.  But  in  spite  of  it  all  and  the  undoubted 
strain  of  the  continued  retreat.  I  do  not  feel  one  bit  the 
worse  and  I  feel  a  good  deal  better  in  the  spiritual  life. 

The  truth  is,  Tronchiennes  agrees  with  me  and  the  food 
I  find  excellent.  I  was  a  bit  afraid  of  this,  as  one  fortnight 


342  FATHER  WILLIAM   DOYLE,   S.J. 

in  Enghien  long  ago  knocked  me  out  of  tune  completely. 
It  is  rather  hard  work  getting  accustomed  to  a  second 
dinner  at  seven,  having  dined  at  twelve  ;  but  '  I  does  my 
endeavours/  and  I  think  I  succeed.  I  now  weigh — no,  I 
won't  put  it  on  paper,  it  looks  too  terrible  when  worked 
out  in  kilos.  It  is  nice  to  say  '  I  am  nine  stone,'  but  if  you 
say  you  weigh  two  or  three  hundred  kilos,  people  get  a  bit 
alarmed. 

As  you  may  imagine,  life  here  is  not  very  exciting.  My 
chief  amusement  is  listening  to  the  bells  of  this  house  or  I 
should  rather  say  houses,  for  it  is  a  second  Maynooth,  huge 
in  size.  There  is  a  special  bell  for  the  Lay  Brothers  and 
one  for  the  Lay  Brother  Novices  ;  another  for  the 
Noviceship,  and  a  fourth  for  the  Juniors.  We  have  our 
own  bell  and  there  is  a  large  bell  for  the  whole  house ;  a 
bell  to  call  Fathers  who  are  wanted  in  the  parlour,  a  brazen- 
tongued  beast  of  a  bell  at  the  hall  door,  and  to  crown  all, 
the  church  steeple  which  was  formerly  a  part  of  this  old 
abbey  of  Premonstratensian  monks  has  a  chime  all  oi  its 
own.  May  the  Lord  be  good  and  send  a  thunder  storm 
somewhere  near  that  chime  that  we  might  have  a  little 
peace  !  .  .  .  . 

I  have  been  very  fortunate  in  getting  a  room  facing  south, 
so  that  I  have  the  sun  all  day.  My  window  looks  down 
on  the  river  which  flows  past  the  house  ;  and  I  am  able  to 
study  Belgian  country  life  and  inhale  Belgian  country  smells 
from  a  couple  of  farms  just  opposite.  The  grounds  around 
are  very  large,  with  pretty  walks  ;  one  especially  along  the 
bank  of  the  river  is  a  great  favourite  of  mine. 


VI. — LETTER  TO  HIS  FATHER  FROM  ABERDEEN. 
Lent,   1908. 

As  I  know  you  will  be  anxious  to  hear  of  my  doings  in 
Aberdeen  during  the  past  three  weeks,  I  will  try  and  jot 
down  as  well  as  I  can  all  that  will  be  of  interest  to 
you.  I  know  you  will  not  think  me  egoistical  if  I  talk  chiefly 
about  myself  or  if  I  am  too  self-laudatory ;  you  will  under 
stand  the  motive  which  inspires  the  blowing  of  my  own 
trumpet. 


APPENDIX  343 

I  was  rather  uneasy  on  my  way  to  Scotland,  as  it  was 
the  first  mission  ever  given  by  Jesuits  in  the  "  granite  city," 
and    naturally    we    hoped    it    would    be    successful.     Then, 
though  I  was  very  glad  to  work  under  such  a  great  man 
as  Fr.  Matthew  Power,  who  is  nearly  as  famous  in  Scotland 
as  Fr.  Tom  Burke  was  in  Ireland,  I  could  not  help  feeling 
that  I  should  play  only  a  very  humble  second  fiddle  beside 
him.     Fr.  Power  is  a  tiny  creature  of  only  6  ft.  6  ins.  and 
18  stone  weight,  but  his  heart  is  as  big  as  himself  and  from 
the  start  he  gave  me  every  encouragement  and  we  soon 
became  great  friends.     I  have  been  most  fortunate  to  begin 
my  missionary  career  under  such  a  master  ;    for  Fr.  Power 
has  had  a  vast  and  varied  experience  and  I  learnt  very  much 
from  him,  and  I  hope  to  profit  by  his  advice  and  hints.     My 
three  weeks'  training  will  stand  to  me  in  the  future  and  will 
be    simply    invaluable    in    time    to    come.      Fr.     Power's 
personality  and  name  were  bound  to  draw  the  people,  and 
I  was  happy  also  at  the  thought  that  so  many  good  prayers 
were  being  offered  for  the   success   of   the  mission.     As  I 
wrote  to  you,  it  has  been,  thank  God,  an  unqualified  success. 
We  were  told  by  the  priests  that  it  was  impossible  to  make 
an  impression  on  the  Aberdonian  Catholics,  they  were  cold, 
unemotional,   with   a  great   deal  of   apathy.     They  are  all 
well-to-do  people  in  the  Cathedral  parish,  many  with  plenty 
of  money,  no  poor  and  no  Irish.     The  congregation  numbers 
1,300  ;    the  Sunday  offering  (there  is  no  charge  at  the  door) 
averages  I3/-,  made  up  chiefly  of  coppers  :    I  saw  one  rich 
lady  in  the  front  bench  put  a  halfpenny  in  the  plate  with  a 
look  of  regret  on  her  face  that  she  had  not  got  a  farthing. 
As  a  proof  that  we  had  touched  somewhat  even  the  hard 
Scottish    heart,  they  contributed  £25   on  the  last  Sunday 
when  a  collection  was  made  for  the  expenses  of  the  Mission  ! 
The    priests    declared    such    a    thing    was    unheard    of    in 
Aberdeen  ;   and  I  fancy  will  not  be  again  for  some  time. 

We  also  succeeded  in  getting  the  people  to  take  up  daily 
Communion,  over  a  hundred  go  every  morning  now,  though 
there  were  practically  none  when  we  came.  In  many  other 
ways  much  and  lasting  good  has  been  done  and  the  people 
have  got  a  lift  which  they  wanted  badly,  for  though  very 
good  at  heart,  there  is  far  too  much  coldness  and  indifference 
amongst  them. 


344  FATHER  WILLIAM   DOYLE,   S.J. 

Even  the  old  Bishop — a  typical  Scot — caught  the  general 
enthusiasm ;  and  after  a  very  complimentary  speech  on 
Sunday  invited  us  to  come  back  next  year  (probably  Advent) 
and  give  a  renewal  of  the  mission.  As  you  may  imagine, 
the  work  has  been  hard.  We  found  it  necessary  to  change 
the  original  programme  and  add  to  the  services.  This 
meant  I  had  to  speak  on  a  large  number  of  subjects  for  which 
I  was  quite  unprepared  and  often  I  had  to  preach  after  a 
.  few  moments  hasty  thought,  but  certainly  the  grace  of  God 
was  in  abundance.  I  was  not  the  least  bit  nervous  and 
never  at  a  loss  for  plenty  to  say.  Though  the  Church  is 
very  large  and  lofty  I  was  easily  able  to  make  myself  heard 
in  every  part  of  it. 

|  Sunday  was  a  busy  day.  This  was  the  programme. 
I,  said  Mass  at  8  and  gave  Holy  Communion  which  nearly 
filled  the  time  till  9.  Then  Children's  Mass  which  I 
heard  with  them  explaining  the  various  parts  of  the  Mass 
as  we  went  along.  A  rush  for  breakfast  followed  by  a 
sermon  at  n,  the  Cathedral  being  as  well  filled  as  at  night, 
the  Scotch  love  sermons  I  am  told.  At  3  o'clock  instructions 
for  children.  At  3.30  Fr.  Power  began  a  controversial 
lecture  for  non-Catholics,  which  proved  a  great  success  and 
is  to  be  continued  by  the  Bishop.  At  6  I  gave  a  double 
instruction,  a  quarter  of  an  hour  on  the  Creed,  another 
quarter  on  one  of  the  Commandments,  Fr.  Power  following 
with  the  sermon.  Four  talks  in  one  day  I  found  quite 
enough  to  satisfy  my  zeal.  I  got  a  slight  cold  and  quite 
lost  my  voice  on  the  fifth  day,  but  was  able  to  resume  on 
the  day  following.  Besides  the  Children's  Mass  and  evening 
instruction  we  had  every  day  a  sermon  in  the  morning,  a 
double  instruction  and  sermon  in  the  evening,  dividing  the 
honours  of  the  pulpit  between  us.  I  was  rather  tired  at 
the  end,  but  feel  fit  and  keen  to  open  at  Great  Yarmouth, 
St.  Mary's  Church,  on  Sunday. 

I  have  had  a  moving  week.  Monday  I  remained  in 
Aberdeen  very  busy  with  confessions.  Tuesday  to  Glasgow. 
Wednesday  :  came  to  the  Mount.  Spent  Thursday  with  L 
and  F;  and  to-day  I  start  for  Yarmouth.  I  suppose  I  may 
take  my  invitation  there  as  a  proof  that  they  were  satisfied 
at  Aberdeen,  as  Fr.  Power  told  me  he  had  written  to  give 
me  a  "  good  character." 


APPENDIX  345 

There  are  many  things,  funny  and  consoling,  which  I 
could  tell  you  about  the  mission.  One  lady,  who  wanted 
me  to  sanction  a  very  shady  proceeding,  bluntly  expressed 
her  great  annoyance :  "  Really,  Father,  this  is  very  dis 
appointing,  I  was  looking  forward  to  this  Mission  for  I 
thought  that  Jesuits  were  men  of  the  world  \  "  What  she 
intended  to  say  was  she  thought  they  had  no  consciences. 
On  the  last  evening  another  lady  came  and  said,  "  Father 
I  want  to  thank  you  for  the  great  happiness  you  have  brought 
to  one  home  in  Aberdeen.  My  daughter  has  been  in  great 
trouble  for  a  long  time  and  for  years  has  longed  for  someone 
to  whom  she  could  open  her  heart.  You  cannot  imagine 
the  joy  in  that  house  to-night,  and  I  promise  you  a  grateful 
mother's  prayers  as  long  as  I  live." 

I  got  to  like  the  people  very  much,  they  are  not  effusive, 
but  genuine  and  sincere,  and  I  felt  really  sorry  at  leaving 
them.  At  the  close  of  the  mission  quite  a  large  number 
came  to  wish  us  good-bye  and  to  thank  us  for  the  mission. 
The  "  holy  missioners  "  have  been  photographed  in  various 
positions,  to  be  sold  for  the  benefit  of  the  church.  I  shall 
send  you  copies  when  they  come.  I  have  never  met 
anywhere  such  kindness  as  from  the  Administrator, 
Fr.  Meany,  and  his  curates.  They  made  us  quite  at  home 
from  the  start  and  did  everything  to  help  us  and  make  the 
mission  a  success.  I  have  written  this  in  great  haste  so  I 
know  you  will  excuse  it.  When  I  see  you  next  I  shall  be 
a  "  bloatered  aristocrat  "  after  my  stay  in  Yarmouth.  Just 
off  for  the  train.  A  little  prayer  for  my  work  next  week.1 


i. — The  Bishop  was  Dr.  Chisholm  who  died  in  1918.  Father  M.  Power,  S.J. , 
to  whom  reference  is  made  in  the  above  letter,  wrote  thus  to  Mr.  Hugh  Doyle 
on  3ist  August,  1917  :  "  My  very  dear  brother  and  colleague  on  the  Aberdeen 

Mission,  Father  Wm.  Doyle,  S.J.,  is  gone Young  and  inexperienced 

at  the  start  of  our  great  mission  some  years  ago,  he  proved  conclusively  to  me, 
his  senior,  and  to  all  the  local  clergy  and  people,  that  he  was  a  Jesuit  Missioner 
'  to  the  manner  born,'  and  this  from  the  very  first  sermon  he  preached.  Every 
day  he  grew  in  the  affection  of  the  Aberdonians  until  we  parted  to  his  great 

grief  and  mine A  little  panegyric  on  him  has  been  preached  in  the 

Cathedral,  Aberdeen." 


346  FATHER   WILLIAM   DOYLE,   SJ 

VII. — LETTER  TO  HIS  FATHER  FROM  YARMOUTH. 
2oth  April,   1908. 

The  mission  closed  last  night  with  a  grand  nourish  of 
tmmpets,  renewal  of  vows,  and  general  scorching  of  the 
Old  Boy's  tail,  not  to  speak  of  one  lady's  hat,  who,  when 
I  told  all  to  raise  their  lighted  candles,  calmly  thrust  hers 
into  the  middle  of  a  flower  garden  which  she  carried  on  her 
head.  She  was  gallantly  rescued  from  the  destruction  by  a 
young  officer  behind  her  ;  perhaps  that  encounter  may  have 
a  happy  ending.  Naturally  speaking  I  am  very  glad  the  week 
is  over.  The  physical  effort  of  speaking  every  night  for 
well  over  an  hour  is  a  big  one,  and  then  there  was  the 
responsibility  and  strain  of  having  everything  on  my  own 
shoulders.  Supernaturally  I  am  sorry  not  to  have  another 
week,  for  now  that  I  have  "  got  "  the  people  much  good 
might  be  done.  However  I  have  no  reason  to  complain 
for  God's  grace  and  the  effect  of  all  your  good  prayers  have 
been  evident  during  the  course  of  the  mission.  Though  I 
cannot  say  I  am  quite  satisfied — perhaps  I  expected  too 
much — the  Fathers  here  are  more  than  pleased,  thank  God, 
and  the  people  tell  me  the  Yarmouth  Catholics  surpassed 
themselves. 

I  certainly  started  under  great  disadvantages.  .  .  . 
The  mission  was  only  announced  the  preceding  Sunday  for 
the  first  time,  no  posters  put  up  and  no  hand  bills  sent  round. 
In  Ireland  people  come  to  a  mission  without  the  asking, 
over  here  they  must  be  dragged ;  hence  the  preparation  by 
the  local  clergy  visiting  and  inviting  the  people  is  looked 
upon  as  more  important  than  the